Trademark Law Basics
A trademark is any symbol, logo or phrase used on your product to distinguish it from similar products and/or manufacturers in the marketplace. Registering your trademark with either the federal or state government is not required to establish your rights. The purpose of trademark registration is to give the public notice of your claim to trademark rights and provide more ways to protect your trademark from infringement by others. You can lose your trademark rights by failing to continue using the trademark on your product.
USPTO Intent-to-Use Application
You can protect a future trademark for a product not ready for market by filing an intent-to-use application with the USPTO. The basis for such an application is your good-faith intent to use the trademark in commerce. This means the trademark you intend to use is more than just an idea but also part of your business activities, such as creating product samples. If you file your intent-to-use application before another party uses the same trademark or a very similar trademark, you will be considered the first user of the trademark.
You may file your intent-to-use application with the USPTO by mail or online. After filing the application, you can expect to wait at least three to four months before receiving notice from the USPTO that your application has been reviewed. The USPTO may request more information about your application. Once no further information is needed and the USPTO finds your trademark suitable for registration, it is published for 30 days in the Official Gazette. During this time, anyone can object to registration of your trademark. If no objections are made (or an objection is denied), you will receive a Notice of Allowance from the USPTO -- which means your trademark will be registered once it is in use.
Statement of Use
The final step to registering your trademark using an intent-to-use application is to file a document called "Statement of Use" with the USPTO. This document provides evidence that you are using your trademark in commerce. It must be filed within six months of the date on your Notice of Allowance -- not the date you received the notice. If you cannot get your product to market before the six months expires, you can request an extension from the USPTO so long as you continue your efforts to market the product. The extension period is an additional six months, and you can request up to five extensions.