A trademark is a distinct design, symbol and/or phrase that distinguishes and identifies the services and goods of a company from other entities. Registering a trademark with United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) gives a business exclusive use of the mark. It also gives businesses the right to use the federal registration symbol for trademarks. The USPTO offers online registration of trademarks.
Search the USPTO’s online searchable database to make sure that your symbol or phrase is not already in use. If you begin the trademark application process and find out that your phrase or symbol is already taken, your application fee will not be refunded.
Choose from a TEAS or TEAS Plus application for your initial application, both of which are available online. A TEAS Plus application is a simplified electronic version of the trademark application for those who can identify their mark or service from the USPTO’s list of acceptable identification of services and goods. This list is available online in a USPTO manual. A TEAS Plus application is cheaper than a TEAS application. The regular TEAS form allows you to enter information about your trademark instead of picking a trademark type from a pre-populated list. Both applications ask for detailed contact information about the applicant and specifications on purpose and usage of the trademark.
Complete the Supplemental Register if your trademark does not fit the criteria to be listed in the USPTO’s principal register. The agency has two types of trademark registers. Most trademarks are listed on the principal register. The supplemental register is for marks that contain surnames, geographic terms and non-distinctive features. Consult with an attorney if you are unsure about how your mark should be categorized.
Fill out the certification mark form if your mark contains details that show that your product or service has been certified and met some qualifications and standards for a particular group, such as an industry certification body, or is from a particular geographical region.
Include the Collective Trademark/Servicemark Application if your mark represents goods or services offered by members of a collective.
Check the status of your application online with the USPTO registration retrieval system using the serial number issued to you when you filed your application. USPTO recommends checking the status of your application every three to four months. It can take anywhere from a year to several years for a trademark to be approved, depending on whether any legal issues arise during the process.
Respond using the appropriate response form if you receive a reply from a USPTO attorney asking for more information. You must respond within six months of receiving a query for more details.
Tips & Warnings
- You may be required to upload image files of your mark during the application process as a JPEG or PDF. The application form explains the specific types of files you can upload and parameters such as size, resolution and more.
- The USPTO prefers online registrations. If you want to fill out a paper application, you can call the USPTO automated telephone service at 800-786-9199 to have a form sent to you.
- All information submitted to the USPTO becomes public record. A trademark application includes an agreement that the applicant has no right to confidentiality. All information becomes a part of the USPTO’s public database.
References & Resources
- USPTO: Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS)
- USPTO: Trademarks FAQs
- USPTO: Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS)
- USPTO: How do I file a Trademark Application?
- USPTO: Initial Application Forms
- USPTO: Response Forms
- USPTO: Acceptable Identification of Goods and Services Manual (ID Manual)
- USPTO: Trademark Applications and Registrations Retrieval (TARR)
- Harvard Law School: Overview of Trademark Law
- Gallagher & Dawsey: Trademarks – Understanding the Principal Register and the Supplemental Register
- Getty Images/Digital Vision/Getty Images