Before beginning the trademark application process, you should familiarize yourself with the USPTO (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office) site, unless of course you have a good patent and trademark attorney, in which case you can quit reading right now. But, for those of you who are starting out small and just want to protect that remarkable name or newly designed logo...read on.
The first step should be to determine if a trademark is what you actually need. The Trademark Office of the USPTO handles only trademarks, while the Patent Office handles those. The Copyright Office is actually a division of the Library of Congress so if you are at the site for the USPTO, you are definitely in the wrong place. To determine if you are in the right place, you might want to learn what the three different types of intellectual property listed above are comprised of. The USPTO has a glossary that clearly defines these terms.
The next step, once you have established that a trademark is, in fact, the intellectual property that you wish to protect, you can search the USPTO database in order to establish whether or not someone else is already claiming rights to your trademark. The search is free and easily accomplished online. If, on the other hand, your trademark includes a design element of some sort or is a logo, you will be required to search using the proper design code(s). You can also access the Design Search Code Manual from the USPTO website, which will walk you through the design code identification and search process.
If you find a mark that you think might conflict with the mark that you wish to use, make note of the serial or registration number of the mark. You can then check its status in the Trademark Applications and Registrations Retrieval (TARR) database. Do not give up until you have exhausted all of your resources. You may find that the trademark is not currently in use or that it is for sale, sometimes quite inexpensively. You also may want to search the product online and make sure that if it is no longer in use, that there is not pending litigation or really negative aspects that you don't wish to spill over to your branding. It is always a good idea to have more than one idea when it comes to trademarks unless you can be absolutely sure that yours is so unique that that is unnecessary.
Finally, every application must have a statement that identifies the goods and/or services with the mark that is or will be used. The level of specific identification will depend upon the type of goods and/or services and must be acceptable according to the Acceptable Identification of Goods and Services Manual, which link is also available through the USPTO website.
Trademark filing can be a daunting prospect, which is why many people prefer to pay for the services of a trademark attorney, but it is not impossible to do yourself. If you find that you have additional questions or concerns that are not answered by the website, then you can also call the Trademark Assistance Center at 1-800-786-9199 or 1-571-272-9250.
This is one government office that seems to have made a complicated process much easier than you might have originally thought.
Along with writing online articles, Joseph enjoys working in his gardens. Garden Harvest Supply is one of his favorite garden sites for buying herb plants and garden dusters.