Registering and Protecting Your Trademarks
You don’t have to register a trademark, and an unregistered trademark is what’s called a “common law” trademark.
However, it’s a really good idea to seek federal registration for your trademark, for a number of reasons. Registering your mark in the US:
- puts the world on notice that your mark belongs to you.
- creates a legal presumption that you own your mark and have the right to use it in connection with your goods or services.
- lets you sue to enforce your mark in federal court.
- helps you register it in other countries.
- lets you get help from the US Customs Service to block imports of infringing goods.
Applying for Trademarks in Advance
The average time from application to registration (or final rejection) of a mark is currently about 11 months. Thus, if you’re planning to use a mark for a new product or service, it’s good to plan ahead.
You can seek to register a trademark that you’re already using, or one that you’re just planning to use. However, you can’t just register a bunch of names and “park” them in case you decide to use them years later.
You can use the ™ mark on your products even if your trademark isn’t registered.
Once your trademark is approved by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), you can use the ® symbol.
In theory, your trademark rights can last “forever.” However, you need to continue to use the mark with the goods or services for which you registered it. Also, you need to be vigilant about people using your trademarks to refer to a general class of products. This is sometimes called “genericide.”
You also have to do some paperwork with the USPTO during the fifth year after registration, by the 10th year, and every 10 years thereafter.
How a Registered Patent Attorney Can Help with Trademarks
A registered patent attorney is one who is
- licensed to practice law in at least one state and
- allowed to practice before the USPTO.
Only a very small percentage of attorneys are admitted to practice before the USPTO, after a rigorous examination process.
You don’t have to use a patent lawyer to register your trademark, but you may find that having one help you through the process will save you a lot of hassle and reduce your risk of wasting time and money on failed applications.