As a business owner, there is probably nothing more important than protecting the brand name and trademark of your company. In order to do this, your trademark must be properly and legally registered with the United States Trademark and Patent Office.
This can be a daunting, frustrating and confusing undertaking and so is often best completed by an attorney qualified and experienced in this process. Read on to learn more about trademarks, trademark registration, and the importance of trademark monitoring.
What is a Trademark?
By definition, a trademark is a symbol, logo, word, or a group of words that has been registered with the United States Trademark and Patent Office in order to represent a product or company.
Some examples of well-known and valuable trademarks include Google, Apple, Walmart, and Microsoft.
Well-known trademarks commonly face the risk of being “pirated” by unscrupulous actors who seek profit by selling “knock-off products.”
How is a Patent Different from a Trademark or Copyright?
Unlike a trademark, a patent is an authority or license granted by the government that prohibits by law other competing entities or companies from manufacturing, using or selling an invention registered by the inventor.
A copyright protects an original work of art or literary work from being copied.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office
If you decide to file for a trademark to protect your company mark and products, you will be dealing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
The United States Patent and Trademark Office is an agency of the United States Department of Commerce that issues patent and trademark registrations.
The USPTO is located in Alexandria, Virginia and operates solely on fees collected and not with any taxpayer dollars.
The Trademark Registration Process
The trademark registration process is complicated and involves many steps:
1. Before filing for a trademark or service mark, the first step is to carefully select a “mark” that represents your company and products keeping in mind that not every mark will qualify to be registered with the USPTO and be legally protected.
2. Then research must be conducted to determine if the trademark is “registrable” and how hard it would be to protect the trademark based on how “strong” the selected trademark is.
It should always be remembered that the United States Patent and Trademark Office only registers trademarks but does not enforce unauthorized use or unauthorized attempts to register a trademark. Therefore, it is the business owner’s responsibility to follow all required protocols to monitor and watch the registered trademark.
3. The next step in applying for a trademark is to identify the “mark format” or “mark drawing” or “representation of the work” that you will be submitting. This should be a clear drawing or depiction of the trademark that must be submitted in order to be assigned a “filing date.”
4. The drawing is then uploaded into 2 databases that can be accessed by the public called the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) and the Trademark Status and Document Retrieval (TSDR).
5. The drawing you select can be one of two types. The first is a “Standard Character Drawing” which shows the mark only in text. This drawing can only be in black and white using Latin characters and Roman or Arabic numerals along with “common punctuation.”
6. The second type of picture that can be submitted is called a “Special Form Drawing” which is a more complicated drawing that contains special graphics, logos, and color.
7. The next step in the trademark process is determining the “goods and services” that the trademark will apply to and then submitting the application.
The Importance of Trademark Monitoring
As mentioned previously in this article, it is up to every company to monitor its trademark as monitoring trademarks is not a function of the USPTO.
Trademark monitoring is essential to ensure that no one is using your trademark in an unauthorized manner and that no one has attempted to register a trademark that infringes on your mark.
This can be accomplished by monitoring the USPTO databases as well as your state’s trademark filings and setting up a Google Alert for inappropriate use of your trademark.
The Many Benefits of Hiring a Private Trademark Attorney
A private attorney who specializes in trademarks can be invaluable in helping to file the trademark application properly and in assuring proper trademark monitoring.
An attorney hired for this purpose must be licensed to practice law in the United States and should be licensed to appear before the USPTO Board.
A trademark attorney can assist you in determining if your company’s mark is protectable and in identifying and classifying the goods and services being protected.
In addition, a trademark attorney can respond to any refusals to register your company’s mark and can ensure that all required trademark maintenance documents are filed in a timely manner.
This type of attorney can also represent you before the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board if someone has filed a petition to cancel your trademark and can file any necessary appeals.
Registering your company’s trademark protects your company’s image and the integrity of your products. After registering your trademark, it is essential to continually monitor your trademark’s status.
A United States licensed attorney specializing in trademarks and qualified to appear on your behalf before the USPTO can assure a seamless application process and effective trademark monitoring.