What’s in a name? When it comes to a small business, that question has even more layers to it. Brand recognition has a special pull with your client base and helps you stand out in a crowd, so your business name needs to be carefully chosen and intentional. Once you have it, though, how do you claim your own business name for yourself?
If you’ve come this far, you’re probably ready to trademark your business name or tagline, and you know why you need a trademark in the first place. But maybe you’re hesitant as to what steps to take. Well, hesitate no more!! We have you covered with our exact step-by-step process to help you register a trademark.
While your actual industry will dictate what resonates with your audience — warm and welcoming, cutting edge and innovative, prestigious and sophisticated, for example — all good trademark names share something in common: they are distinct, unique, and easily recognizable.
Sometimes something completely unrelated to your industry can be just strange enough to work. Take Apple, for example. A real life apple has nothing to do with computers! If you can keep it simple and catchy on top of unique, even better.
You don’t have to go all out in coming up with a wild and wacky name, though. Take our name. The Contract Shop® is not exactly the sexiest business name around, but it tells people exactly what we do — sell contracts. Boom.
Once you have brainstormed your perfect name, check that it is legally available to register and use. Even the most unique, perfectly crafted names sometimes are not as distinct as you may think. After you decide your name is worth pursuing, do some background research and see what’s out there.
Google searches are still the easiest way to check. Search for your desired trademark name and see if anything comes up. Remember to search both in and out of quotations (“trademark” and trademark) so exact matches and similar matches will both pop up in your results.
A quick Google search will help you find out if there are any similar names already out there, some of which may come from unfortunate sources. You may find your desired name is one letter off from the brand name of an incontinence medication, so unless that’s what you’re aiming for, maybe don’t go that direction.
If nothing comes up in Google, your next stop is the U.S Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Use its search tool to look through all trademarks currently registered through the agency. The Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) is free to use, so make the most of this resource.
The goal is to not only check that your desired name isn’t already taken, but also to get some inspiration from other trademarks in similar classes to your industry. You also want to search to see what kind of domain name registrations already exist that incorporate the trademark you are trying to create. Domain name registrars like ICANN.org (a nonprofit that manages URL registrations) can assist with this.
Now here’s the less-exciting step (unless you’re one of those people who loves spreadsheets and documents): the paperwork. File your trademark application online. Two options are available in the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS): TEAS Standard and TEAS Plus.
Under initial application forms, you will apply for your trademark on the Principal or Supplemental Register. You can also apply for other marks at this stage, such as certification, collective, and collective memberships, if applicable.
You will also identify the goods and services involved at this step. Depending on which application option you choose, you will either select your goods/service listing from the already-existing Trademark Identification manual (via TEAS Plus), or you can write the description of your goods and services yourself (via TEAS Standard).
Sometimes, other statements may be required alongside your application. If your mark...
...then you will need to provide additional backing paperwork. Under TEAS Plus, you include these statements in your initial application, but TEAS Standard has you provide them later (leading to longer wait time and potential additional fees).
If your small business is already up and running, then you will want to submit your trademark application as soon as possible. However, having a trademark legally implies that you are using the name for commerce — that is, you are already in business. But what if you’re still catching up to that point?The USPTO site also has a section called “Intent To Use,” or ITU. These are the application forms you will use if you plan to use your trademark for a business that is still getting up and running. If approved, you will need to start using your trademarked name within 6 months.
Here’s everyone’s least favorite part of the process: the fees. Creating a trademark name for your business will be a business investment. The actual amount of this investment will largely depend on whether you opt for TEAS Standard or TEAS Plus.
The Standard option has few requirements up front, but you eventually need to meet the additional application requirements later in the process, and you also pay a higher fee per class of goods and services ($350/class). You start with one application filing fee and pay the rest as you go.
With the Plus option, you’ll need to address all of the requirements up front (which may result in a higher overall cost), but the fee per class of goods and services is lower ($250). You pay all application fees at once when submitting your application.
And now, we wait. We know, thrilling stuff. But this is an important step, or in other words, an important step to prepare for. It can take quite a bit of time for your new application to be renewed and approved.
You should generally see your initial application appear in the Trademark Status and Document Retrieval (TSDR) system in about a week, although if you file without an International Class, applications can take up to 80 days.
Your application will then go through a review process and possible edits or modifications. This is why the accuracy of your first application is essential. Any mistakes lead to delays on an already time-consuming process. For real-time processing updates, look at the USPTO’s wait times.
Registering a trademark is an involved undertaking; the entire process normally takes around six months. However, it all pays off when you get to claim a unique name that elevates your brand and bolsters your business.
Ready to take your business to the next level? Trademarks on Tap, our signature program, can help you complete the entire process with less stress. Plus, if you’re still stuck on how to name and/or trademark your services or products, this program can be your guide!
Designers, educators, bloggers, and other creatives — this course is for you. Join Trademarks on Tap now and get instant lifetime access to the materials!
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