How to Apply for a Trademark

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

How to Apply for a Trademark

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

Trademarks are designs, symbols, or words that consumers associate with a particular business's goods or services. Businesses can have multiple trademarks. For example, both the name McDonald's and the "golden arches" are trademarks owned by McDonald's, the well-known fast food restaurant.

Woman at computer designing logos

As trademarks become associated with a business, the business gains the ability to prevent other businesses from using the trademark. Businesses gain some trademark protection just by using the mark, but, they can register their trademark to gain even more protection and options for enforcing their trademark rights. Businesses can apply to register their mark at the state level, federal level, or both.

The following are the steps to apply for a trademark. You can take them on your own or use an experienced online legal service provider to help you navigate the process, which can be tricky.

1. Identify the trademark you want to register.

The first step in the trademark application process is to identify what trademark or trademarks you want to register. The first trademark registration for a business is usually its name or logo. You also need to identify the class, or category of goods or services, for which you will be applying to register the mark. An example would be event planning services or restaurant services.

2. Decide where to register your trademark.

After deciding on the trademark or trademarks you want to register, you need to decide where to register it. States have their own registration systems that allow you to register your trademark protection within the state. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has a federal registration system that allows you to apply for national registration of your trademark.

If you are only using your trademark within your state of business, you should register it with the state. If you are using your trademark nationally, you should register it with the USPTO. If you plan to use your trademark naturally in the next six months, you should complete an intent-to-use application with the USPTO.

3. Research whether your trademark is already in use.

The next step is to research whether your trademark is already in use. You should search the USPTO registration database, Google, social media, and, if one exists, your state's trademark database. If your trademark is already in use in a similar business and location, your application for trademark registration will most likely be rejected and your application fee will not be refunded.

4. Complete the trademark application.

If there is no conflict between the trademark you want to register and trademarks already in use, complete the appropriate application and pay the required filing fee. Each state has its own registration process, but all state applications are shorter than the USPTO application.

5. Provide requested information.

After you submit your application, the USPTO or similar state agency may ask you to provide additional information, modify your application, or answer questions. You should provide the requested information as soon as possible in the manner instructed. The longer you wait, the longer it will take to obtain approval of your trademark application.

6. Wait for approval.

The final step is to wait patiently for approval of your trademark. In most cases, you will not receive a decision for three months to a year after submitting your application. State decisions are on the shorter end of that estimate, while USPTO estimates are on the longer end.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.