How Much Does it Cost to Trademark a Business Name?

By Lori Lapidario

A company’s name and trademark are probably two of its most important properties. Generally, most startup business owners’ first step into commerce is to establish their business name, which they may also register as their trademark. First, they need to decide what type of business entity is appropriate for their needs and register it with either the state or county, as required. Next, they need to determine their intellectual property needs, such as costs of registering their chosen name as a trademark.

Use Vs. Registration

Many people don’t realize that registration of a trademark does not establish trademark rights. Rather, trademark rights are established through use of the mark. Registration, however, gives public notice of trademark ownership. A state trademark registration gives public notice of ownership in that particular state. A federal trademark registration, on the other hand, is broader and gives public notice of ownership within the United States. Trademark registrations also give owners an advantage when it becomes necessary to enforce their trademark rights. However, trademark registrations can be costly.

Name Availability

The first thing a business owner must do is to search the availability of his desired trademark. Not doing a proper search could lead to receiving a cease and desist letter from a disgruntled trademark owner in the future, which could lead to higher business expenses. The best way to do a search is to seek the aid of a trademark attorney. Oftentimes, they can provide a thorough search and opinion for a few hundred dollars. For owners seeking to do business in interstate commerce, a full search might be in order; typically done by a trademark research company for about $500 and up, plus the cost of having an attorney review the search results and provide an opinion, which may bring the total cost to $1,500 or more.

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Federal Registration Costs

If a business owner is interested in interstate commerce, a federal registration may be the best way to go. As of 2012, the government filing fee starts at $275 per international class and may be filed electronically; filing fees for applications filed by paper are $375 per international class. Updated fee schedules are available by checking the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website. During trademark prosecution, which is the period when a trademark application is being examined, the U.S.Trademark Examiner may issue office actions that need to be responded to. If the owner-applicant hired an attorney to execute the application, he must budget for both attorney fees and the expenses associated with filing responses to these office actions. After the trademark registration issues, maintenance costs must also be considered, for example, costs associated with filing the Affidavit of Continued Use between the fifth and sixth year after registration, and filing trademark renewal applications between the ninth and tenth year after registration as well as every 10 years thereafter.

State Registration Costs

Business owners may also file for trademark registration at the state level. Filing fees vary by state and typically range from $10 - $100. State trademark examiners may also issue office actions which need to be responded to. Renewal of trademark registrations typically vary between every five years up to every 20 years. More information may be obtained by visiting the Secretary of State's office for your particular state of interest.

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How to Deregister a Business Name

Canceling a business name is an important step for closing businesses, but also for any company that no longer wants to use a registered business name. Generally, business names are approved and registered under state law. As important as it is to select an available business name that correctly identifies a business, it is equally important to retire a business name that you are no longer using.

Trademark Amortization Rules

The Internal Revenue Service and the tax authorities in some states have specific rules about trademark amortization deductions. Section 197 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) allows the capitalized cost of a trademark to be amortized and then deducted from taxable income rather deducted as an ordinary business expense. Capital cost amortization is required if the trademark is part of a trade or business, or if it is otherwise used to generate revenue.

Reasons for Establishing a DBA

Not everyone who starts a business chooses to incorporate or set up a limited liability company, or LLC. Certain business owners can be sued personally for their acts, and the limited liability of LLCs and corporations doesn't help all entrepreneurs. In businesses where the owner expects to be doing all the work, such as sole proprietorships where there are no partners, co-owners or employees, an assumed name, or DBA, for "doing business as") may be appropriate.

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