How to Trademark a Catchphrase

By Karyn Maier

A catchphrase is a slogan or tagline that identifies a person, group or business. Often introduced into pop culture by a memorable line spoken in film or on television, a catchphrase is “catchy” because the association with a product, service or personality is indelible. It’s a unique signature – as long as no one else has used it previously. Although your catchphrase is protected as soon as you begin using it for business, registering offers additional protection.

Step 1

Select the proper trademark format for your catchphrase. There are three types of marks available for registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office: standard character, stylized/design and sound. Unless your catchphrase involves the use of specialized fonts or design elements when presented visually, the standard character format is probably right for you.

Step 2

Identify the goods, products and services that are associated with the use of your catchphrase. To see examples of what types are considered by the trademark office, search the Acceptable Identification of Goods and Services Manual on the USPTO website for entries that most closely describe the goods and services to which your catchphrase applies.

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Step 3

Search the Trademark Electronic Search System, or TESS, using the Basic Word Mark Search feature to make sure there isn’t a pending trademark application for a slogan or phrase that may trigger what the trademark office calls a “likelihood of confusion.” If there is, your application may be blocked and you will forfeit your application fees.

Step 4

File your application to trademark your catchphrase using the online Trademark Electronic Application System, or TEAS. If your catchphrase is already in use in business, you will need to attach samples that demonstrate its use. If it isn’t yet in use, then you must check Section 1(b) “intent to use” basis on the application form.

Step 5

Pay the appropriate TEAS filing fees. How many classes of goods and services your catchphrase applies to will affect the amount of documentation needed and the cost of filing. Also, filing under the “intent to use” basis requires an addiitonal fee. If you wish, you can set up an Electronic Funds Transfer account prior to filing your application electronically so that you can also pay the fees online.

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