How to Trademark an Idea

by Jeff Franco J.D./M.A./M.B.A.
Trademark registration provides protection.

Trademark registration provides protection.

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If you have an idea for a trademark design that you want to use exclusively for your business, you should consider registering the trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Once you register the trademark, you have the legal right to use the trademark exclusively. In the event that another business uses the same or similar trademark, you can seek legal protection in federal court for the trademark infringement.

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Step 1

Search the USPTO database to ensure that your trademark idea is available. The purpose of registering a trademark is to obtain legal rights for the exclusive use of a mark that is unique, thereby allowing your customers to associate the mark with your business. If the trademark you have an idea for is similar to an existing mark in the USPTO database, you cannot obtain a legal trademark since it’s not unique.

Step 2

Draft a depiction of the mark. Since trademarks are unique words, symbols, phrases and designs, the USPTO requires that you submit a physical drawing of the mark. A USPTO representative will use it to ensure that similar marks don’t already exist. Upon approval, the mark will be entered in the agency’s database so that future applicants have notice of its existence.

Step 3

Determine what your basis for filing is. The trademark application requires that you indicate whether your basis for filing the application falls under “intent to use” or “use in commerce.” A “use in commerce” basis is appropriate if you currently use the trademark for an existing business that sells goods or provides service, while an “intent to use” basis is appropriate when your intention is to use the trademark at some point after filing the application.

Step 4

Access the Trademark Electronic Application System to submit your application. The USPTO prefers that you file your trademark application online using TEAS. When you access TEAS, you must choose between two application forms, both of which require personal information, details on your trademark and payment of a filing fee.