As your company, brand, and/or influence grows, you might start to worry about someone else using the same or similar name, website, social media handles, or logo and stealing your unique ideas. In business law, this is called “copyright infringement” and “creating confusion in the market,” and it can be detrimental to the hard work you’ve spent building a brand and growing a following.
What can you do to protect your brand and influence? The answer is filing a federal trademark with the USPTO. Trademarks are not just for large companies and serial entrepreneurs. They are for ANYONE who has a business or brand they created and want to protect from others in competition. Filing a federal trademark is especially important if you are making money from that business or brand, whether it’s a service or product you offer.
Isn’t paying a trademark lawyer really expensive? Yes, but did you know you DON’T need a lawyer to file your own trademark application? You can do it yourself for only $200!
Are you thinking about trademarking your brand or blog, but not sure where to start? I’ve got all the info and tips you need to register your federal trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), if you decide to do it yourself.
The #1 best advice I can offer you is DON’T RUSH IT!
Take the time to read and learn everything you can and go through the application process slowly, double-checking all your info before you submit and pay the fees. Trust me, it will save you time, frustration, AND MONEY down the line.
I’ve successfully registered two federal trademarks this year, and here are my FIVE best tips and all the links to help others do the same:
- First, read through this page to learn about Federal Trademarks: https://www.uspto.
gov/trademarks-application- process/filing-online/teas- tutorial#step1
- Next, search the TESS database to make sure no one else has trademarked your name: http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/
- Watch all the USPTO video tutorials (Trademark Information Network) before starting your application for a trademark. They are a little corny, but SUPER informative and will help you before you start the application process: https://www.uspto.gov/
trademarks-getting-started/ process-overview/trademark- information-network
- Gather all the required information you need and have it ready BEFORE you apply:
- Your word mark and detailed description
- Your design mark (logo) and detailed description
- Your first use of your mark (when you first created a social media account, bought a url, filed a business licence, etc.) AND your first use in commerce (when you began taking money under that name)
- Who is applying…you personally or an LLC you’ve created? (e.g. I don’t have a business license for M2M so I applied under my name, BUT Kb is an LLC so we had to apply under the name Kaiser Brewing Company, as it appears on our license)
- The Term ID and Class you will choose for your mark (you can search here: https://idm-tmng.uspto.gov/id-
master-list-public.html OR look up competitors in the TESS database and see what they used. BUT always make sure the ID and Class numbers are still valid. NOTE: you can use more than one Term ID, if needed, but each Class will cost you an additional $200
- Know BEYOND A DOUBT (and be ready to prove it!) whether your business is a PRODUCT or SERVICE (this will affect your ID and Class above!)
- Your “specimen” image: pay close attention to what is acceptable for products vs service. I took take a screen shot of my prices for M2M (service) and a picture of the brewery with growlers and cups of beer for Kb (product)
- The cheapest way to apply for a trademark is through the TEAS form. I also HIGHLY recommend you sign up for a USPTO account. That way, you can track the status of your filing throughout the process: https://account.uspto.gov/profile/create-account
Now, it’s your turn. Don’t be intimidated. Take a deep breath, and get this ball rolling: https://www.uspto.gov/
You can do this! Good luck!