The Benefits of Federal Trademark Registration
When you form a new business, one of the first things you do (after choosing a name) is develop your company’s image. From your website to your business cards, your company’s name, logo, or slogan is an important part of who you are. To make sure that your brand stays under your control, it’s a good idea to register your trademark. That way, you can take advantage of the benefits of federal trademark protection.
How Can I Get a Registered Trademark?
Whether you are a sole proprietorship or an LLC, you can register a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) by filing a trademark application. Due to the volume of applications the USPTO receives, the process takes between eight and 12 months to complete. To get your registration approved as quickly as possible, there are several pre-application steps you should take.
Make Sure Your Trademark Is Eligible for Registration
Trademark protections in the United States are use-based. This means that a mark benefits from federal trademark registration only as long as it is used in commerce. In other words, if you attach your trademark to the goods or services you provide, it remains protected. You can file a trademark application based either on your mark’s use in commerce or on your intent to use the mark at a later date. Keep in mind that the second option is appropriate only if your operations are imminent but have not yet commenced. You are not allowed to file an intent to use registration merely to reserve the trademark.
In addition, your trademark cannot be confusingly similar to an existing one. A trademark that is confusingly similar to another infringes on the original trademark owner’s rights. A clearance search, conducted by a trademark attorney or search professional, will identify any marks that are similar to yours. The attorney then interprets the results of those searches to determine whether there is a risk of confusing similarity.
How Much Does It Cost to Register a Federal Trademark?
The total cost of registering a trademark will vary depending on the goods or services you provide and whether you hire an attorney. In general, however, you can expect to pay anywhere from $275 to $2,500 in filing fees for a complete trademark registration.
The USPTO offers both paper and online applications. The paper application will cost slightly more, and the USPTO recommends using their online form instead.
The largest factor in the cost of a trademark registration is the number of different classes applicable to your trademark. The USPTO divides goods and services into 45 different classes. The registration fee for each class is $275 for a standard application, so the more goods you sell, the higher the cost. For example, if you sold both jewelry and clothing, your trademark would apply to two classes of goods for a total of $550 in filing fees. The USPTO also assesses additional fees during the process for amendments, corrections, and other supplemental filings. Each of these filings costs between $100 and $200.
Hiring an attorney or search professional adds anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars to the total. Many attorneys charge a flat rate rate for trademark registration, while others follow the more traditional hourly rate model. While their services may seem expensive, trademark attorneys provide crucial assistance in completing comprehensive clearance searches and handling the preparation and submission of your application. Read more about the benefits of performing a comprehensive trademark search before registering a trademark.
What Protections Do I Get from Federal Trademark Registration?
For businesses, the benefits of federal trademark registration far outweigh the cost of obtaining them. Your trademark is your brand, and trademark laws in the United States provide a number of ways for you to maintain control over how it is used.
Nationwide Protection Against Infringement
Although states offer trademark registrations, the scope is limited and covers only the state in which the registration is obtained. Registering a trademark with the USPTO allows you to take advantage of nationwide protection against other parties using your trademark. Even if you don’t have immediate plans to grow your business, it’s a good idea to prepare for that possibility. This is especially true if you conduct your business online, where the internet effectively erases geographic borders in many situations.
Definitive Ownership Rights
Trademarks are intended to identify the source of a particular good or service. As a result, they are graphical depictions of the goodwill a business builds by offering high-quality goods or services. Federal trademark registration serves as official documentation of your ownership of a particular trademark.
Legally speaking, your federal registration also puts other business owners on notice that you own this particular mark. Although there is no guarantee that someone else won’t try to take advantage of the reputation your mark represents, having a federal registration will deter most people from doing so, saving you the time and money of filing lawsuits and defending your trademark rights on common law grounds.
Under both federal law and several treaties, registering a trademark with the USPTO grants you certain protections against foreign infringement of your trademark. A registered trademark allows you to stop the import of foreign goods that infringe on your trademark rights. In addition, maintaining a federal trademark opens up the possibility of obtaining protection from foreign trademark offices under the Madrid System.
Strong Legal Standing In Court
While all the benefits of federal trademark registration are important, there is one that has the largest impact should you need to take an infringer to court. Maintaining a federal trademark registration grants you a presumption of the validity of your trademark. In certain cases, you may also be entitled to recover three times the damages you prove (called treble damages).