What Are the Four Parts to Obtaining a Trademark?

By Marilyn Lindblad

Your trademark tells your customers that your products come from you. It distinguishes your goods and services from those of others. You can select a word, phrase, symbol, design or any combination of these elements to serve as your trademark. The strongest trademark is a fanciful, made-up word or image that is not confusingly similar to another party's goods. There are four basic steps to obtaining a trademark.

Your trademark tells your customers that your products come from you. It distinguishes your goods and services from those of others. You can select a word, phrase, symbol, design or any combination of these elements to serve as your trademark. The strongest trademark is a fanciful, made-up word or image that is not confusingly similar to another party's goods. There are four basic steps to obtaining a trademark.

Classification of Goods

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office classifies trademarks according to the type of goods the mark covers. Therefore, the first step toward obtaining a trademark is to select the goods you will offer to the public; this will help determine the trademarks you can and cannot use. Generally speaking, you cannot use a trademark salad dressing that another trademark owner is already using for a spaghetti sauce. The two items are in the same class of goods, and selling them under the same trademark could confuse consumers as to which trademark owner makes the product.

Protect your brand. Register My Trademark Now

Selection of the Mark

Another step toward obtaining a trademark is selecting the mark. Your trademark can be a word or phrase, a graphic or a combination of text and graphics. Trademarks vary in strength based on their distinctiveness. A weak trademark is descriptive, such as "Papa Vito's Pizza" for a pizza restaurant. A strong trademark is fanciful or suggestive, such as "Zing! Pizza." During the naming process, many business owners conduct a trademark search to make certain someone else is not already using the planned mark. Online search services are available to help you with this task, or you can conduct your own search on the PTO website, on search engines and in the marketplace.

Use in Commerce

Before the PTO will register a trademark, the trademark owner must use the trademark in commerce -- that is, in a commercial transaction. When you apply to register your trademark, you must state the date when you first used your trademark in commerce. You can prove use with an order form, an invoice for the sale of a trademarked item, or a copy of a receipt for the purchase of a trademarked item. Creating an Internet domain name that uses the trademark can fulfill the requirement of first use if the domain name's website offers trademarked goods for sale. One token sale does not fulfill the requirement of use in commerce. The trademarked goods must be continuously used in commerce to preserve the owner's trademark rights.

Registration

After the trademark user selects his goods or services, chooses his trademark and uses the mark in commerce, he may file an application to obtain a federal trademark registration. The registrant may file electronically on the PTO website, or he may use an online legal document preparation service to streamline the process. A federal registration enters the trademark in a national database and informs others who may want to register the same word or design that the trademark is already registered. After registration, the owner may use a registration mark, an "R" inside a circle, with his trademark.

Protect your brand. Register My Trademark Now
What Does "Date of First Use" Mean on a Trademark?

References

Related articles

How To Trademark Something

A trademark is a mark, symbol or combination of words that distinctively identifies a product or service -- McDonald's Golden Arches, for example. Trademarks have economic value because they represent the business reputation of the products they represent or the company with which they are identified. Registration of your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office allows you to obtain nationwide protection, sue in federal courts and qualify for international protection.

How to Start a Trademark

A trademark is a unique ''word, phrase, symbol or design that identifies and distinguishes'' the goods or services of a company from competitors, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Trademarks are important because they enable potential customers to identify the products of a specific business and brand(s) of the business. While a trademark does not need to be registered, federal and state registration is important because it can prevent your competitors from using your logo to advertise their own products and effectively steal customers. If you have the trademark, only you get to use the mark.

What Types of Marks Does a Trademark Protect?

A trademark enables consumers distinguish the goods of one manufacturer from its competitors' goods. It helps consumers shop more efficiently, because they can look for familiar trademarks that they trust. Instead of comparing the ingredients in every can of chicken soup at the grocery store, a shopper simply identifies the soup that she likes by its trademark. Trademarks protect several types of marks, including text-based marks, design marks, symbols and marks that combine these elements.

File a Trademark Online. LegalZoom. Learn More.

Related articles

Can I Trademark Before I Sell the Product?

Since the federal trademark registration process takes several months, it makes sense to apply for trademark ...

How to Use TESS for Trademark

A trademark is a unique symbol, phrase or word used to distinguish one brand of goods or services from another. ...

Should You Wait to Trademark a Name Before Rebranding?

Rebranding is expensive and risky. When you change your name or your logo, you change your product labels, advertising ...

Are All Trademark Names Legally Protected?

All trademark names generally qualify for trademark protection. Basic trademark protections automatically apply to a ...

Browse by category