It’s easy to disregard trademark ™️ law, but did you know that trademark theft costs small businesses over $300 billion 💰 per year?!
If you want to protect 🛡️ your business and your money, check out this short beginner’s guide to trademark law:
Technically, trademarks are for your goods or products, whereas a service mark is for your commercial services.
We know that failing to trademark can cost you a lot of money 💸, but what does trademarking really protect against?
Trademarks keep customers who have had positive 👍 experiences with your product or service. Additionally, they help them find you by looking for the unique logo, name, or symbol, that identifies your product or service.
For example, in reality, Coke may be indistinguishable to your taste buds 👅 from other carbonated drinks. However, you always order a Coke because you remember grabbing one every Sunday to watch football 🏈 with your dad. In this sense, ordering “Coke” at a restaurant 🍽️ as opposed to “cola” is proof that trademarks work.
You should also trademark your logo product or service to prevent others from stealing your particular mark to sell their own goods and services.
For example, it’s very likely that if Pepperidge Farm did not trademark its name, someone would steal it and attempt to trick customers into buying their own crackers instead!
How to register your trademark
✅ Choose your trademark
Select a symbol, slogan, word, or design that is uniquely identified with your product or service.
✅ Research your trademark
While some people will create a totally unique design as their trademark, others will want to trademark a word or phrase that someone else may have already registered.
As a result, you must research 🔍 whether your desired trademark has been previously used and registered.
If you have the resources, you may want to consider hiring an attorney to help with the trademark process. Attorneys have access to sophisticated professional #databases that provide very timely ⏲️, accurate information about pending trademark applications.
That being said, if you’re more of a DIY person, here’s how to research whether or not applications are already pending for your desired trademark. Remember that you use this basic word mark search when you’re trying to trademark words – trademarking graphics requires a different process.
Your first step should always be performing a Google search to ensure that the words you want to trademark do not appear in business anywhere else.
Visit whois.icann.org and search to find out whether or not the words appear in domain names anywhere in the world 🌎.
Finally, your research ends at the website for the U.S. #Patent and Trademark Office.
On this site, you’ll find a free system called TESS, Trademark Electronic Search System. You can use this system to determine whether or not there are pending trademark applications in America 🇺🇸 for the words you want to trademark.
To find TESS, simply visit USPTO.gov, hover over the “Trademarks” tab, click on “Searching Trademarks”, scroll down to “Search trademark database” and then “Basic word mark search”. From there, type ⌨️ the words you want to trademark into the “Search term” field.
Upon searching, you may find at least one live, or pending, application for your mark. On the other hand, if you see a “dead” ☠️ application, that would mean the mark has been abandoned and is now available to you.
If you don’t see your words on this screen, then you’re looking good 👌 for a trademark and can move onto the next step.
✅ Use your trademark
To lock in 🔒 your trademark, you have to physically use the words and/or symbols in your online business.
In America, once a business starts to use a distinctive name or symbol, it immediately and automatically has the right to prevent others from using that same mark. Put simply, you use it or you lose it.
In addition to using your trademark in your business, you have to display it so it’s physically associated with the particular product or service you’re selling. This could be satisfied by a label 🏷️, a tag, or simply adding the trademark to your website.
✅ Register your trademark
Once you have incorporated your trademark into your business, the next step is to officially protect it under federal law by registering it.
In order to register your trademark, return to the USPTO.gov website. Under the “Trademarks” tab, go to “Apply online” and click 🖱️ on “Initial application forms”.
Here, you’ll find three different types of application forms. I use the TEAS application; although it costs $50 more than the cheapest option, I don’t want to go through the goods and services listing, and I don’t mind communicating with the USPTO through email 📧 and online correspondence.
Once you’ve chosen your application, scroll down and check “No, an attorney is not filing this application”. Then, click “Continue” to fill out the applicant’s contact information.
🔑 Remember that “applicant” means the owner of the mark, not the person filling out the form.
In other words, if you want your business to own the mark, you should enter the business name as the applicant.
Finally, after you’re done filling out the contact information, click “Continue” again and you’ll arrive at the “Mark information screen”. Here, click on “Standard characters” and enter your trademark phrase.
Press “Continue” again and you’ll reach the goods and services information screen. Click on “Add goods and services”, then type in the basic category for your product and hit “Go”. From there, you get a listing of all different types of related products.
Once you pass these, you can skip identifying the filing basis, and head right through to the payment 💳information. When it’s all filled out, hit the “Submit Trademark Application Form” and there you go – you’ve done it!
✅ Wait for your trademark
If and when you receive your notice of publication 📜, then you’ll know your trademark application was properly prepared and the USPTO has sent your trademark application to the official gazette. This is a publication that citizens can read to view all trademark applications and oppose them if they want to.
However, if no one opposes your trademark application for 30 days 🗓️, your #certificate of registration of your trademark should be on its way!
Congratulations 🎉 creator, you’re officially trademarked!