How to Obtain a Trademark

By Joe Stone

You obtain a trademark by using a logo, word, slogan or design that is associated with a product or service provided by your business. The key to establishing a trademark is using it actually and continually in commerce. The strength of your trademark rights depends on the uniqueness of your trademark, how long it has been in use and the size of the geographical area where the trademark is used. Although not legally required, registering your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provides the maximum legal rights and protection for your trademark.

Step 1

Research the market in which you intend to use your trademark. Search the geographical area where the business is likely to find its customers and determine whether there is another business with the same name or logo that you intend to trademark. If no other business is using the name or logo, you can apply for trademark rights in the name and logo in that area simply by using it. If another business uses the same name or logo, you risk violating the other business's trademark rights.

Step 2

Use your trademark in all facets of your business, such as on signs, packaging, business cards and, as is practical, on any other item associated with your business. This is the primary way you protect your trademark and enforce your rights against someone attempting to use your trademark or a similarly confusing trademark to compete with your business.

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Step 3

Submit an application to the USPTO to register your trademark, if you want the ultimate legal protection. This can be done via mail or online through the USPTO website. A federal trademark application requires the name of the owner of the trademark (either you or your company), the owner's address, a drawing of the mark, identification of your goods and a specimen indicating how the mark is used. Although you must actually be using the trademark in commerce before it can be registered, the USPTO permits the filing of an application based on an "intent to use" the trademark so you can start the registration process before using the trademark.

Step 4

Submit an application to register your trademark in the state where your business is located and in any other state where you do business using the trademark. Each state has its own agency for trademark registration, such as the Secretary of State's office in California. The majority of states have enacted the Model State Trademark Bill, which is similar to the Lanham Act that governs federal trademark law. The trademark registration requirements in states using the Model State Trademark Bill are nearly the same as the USPTO requirements.

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How to Trademark an Idea


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Trademark Owner's Responsibilities

Holding an official trademark registered with the federal government gives you the right to exclusively use your mark, but it does not come without responsibility. If you have a trademark registered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, there are ongoing requirements to meet in order to maintain and enforce its exclusive use.

How to Trademark an Abandoned Trademark

Trademark rights are acquired when a trademark is used in commerce to identify a business's products or services. These rights will last as long as the trademark is used. When a business ceases using the trademark, the rights associated with the trademark may be considered abandoned. You can acquire the rights to an abandoned trademark by taking steps to investigate the circumstances regarding when the trademark ceased being used and to begin using the trademark in your business. You should register the trademark to acquire additional protection for your right to exclusively use the trademark.

How to Check a Name for a Trademark

The primary reason to conduct a trademark search is to avoid using a name for your business that cannot be registered with the federal or state government. Before using the name, it is important to check whether the name, or a very similar name, is currently in use. You can check the records of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for federally registered trademarks. State registered trademarks can be checked in the records of the state agency overseeing trademark registration. You should also research the market area where you do business to search for unregistered trademarks currently in use.

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