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Registering a Trademark

Registering a Trademark, Logo, Brand, Slogan, Business Name
A trademark is a distinctive word, name, phrase, symbol, design, or other device used by a company (or person) to distinguish its goods or services from the goods or services of other companies and to identify itself as the source of its goods or services.  Generally speaking, the terms brand, logo, slogan, and name are simply either synonyms for “trademark” or refer to different types of trademarks.

What is meant by registering a trademark, logo, brand, slogan, or business name?
Registering a trademark refers to filing a trademark application with the appropriate trademark office in order to protect your rights to the trademark and put others on notice that you are claiming rights to that trademark.  The trademark application is then examined, and if acceptable, the trademark is then considered to be registered.

Where do I file to register my trademark, logo, brand, slogan, or business name?
This depends on where you geographically intend to use your trademark.  If you only plan on using your trademark in one state in the U.S., you should file with your state's trademark office.  If you plan on using your trademark in more than one state in the U.S., you should file with the federal U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. 

In addition, if you plan on using your trademark outside of the United States, then you should consider filing a trademark application in each country or jurisdiction where you plan on using your mark.
 
What benefits do I receive by registering my trademark, logo, brand, slogan, or business name?
If you register your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, you obtain a federal trademark registration that affords you nationwide rights.  This means that you have trademark rights and can enforce those rights in every state in the United States.  A trademark registration also puts others on notice of your ownership of the trademark and operates as a legal presumption that you own the mark.  And if you keep your federal registration in effect for five years from the date of registration, your mark will become incontestable, which means that no one can challenge the validity of your mark on certain grounds, such as descriptiveness.  In addition, a federal registration allows you to recover more money in damages if you have to sue someone for trademark infringement in court.  A federal registration also lets you use the registration symbol ® with your trademark.

What if I don't register my trademark, logo, brand, slogan, or business name?
If you simply start using a trademark in the U.S., you may still acquire some rights to that trademark.  But those rights will be limited to the geographic areas in which you use it.  In fact, if another party registers the same trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, even after you have already been using your trademark, that party may be able to prevent you from using your trademark in the rest of the U.S.
Moreover, outside the U.S., you rarely acquire rights to a trademark simply by using it.  Therefore, registration outside the U.S. is crucial to acquiring trademark rights.

Can I register my trademark, logo, brand, slogan, or business name myself?
You are certainly permitted to file an application to register a trademark yourself without an attorney.  However, the trademark registration process is complicated and is governed by a set of federal law and administrative trademark rules that make it difficult for a layperson to properly register a trademark.  Laypersons often have trouble because they do not know the requirements for a proper application.  The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is very strict regarding its requirements, which often result in the applications needing to be re-filed sometimes needlessly increasing costs.  If you can afford it, it is highly recommended that you hire a trademark attorney to assist you.

Are there any requirements for registering a trademark, logo, brand, slogan, or business name?
Yes, there are a lot of legal requirements – too many to list here.  The principal requirement  is that you use your trademark in interstate commerce (i.e., in more than one State).  However, you do not need to use your trademark in interstate commerce when you first file the application, but you ultimately will need to be using it in interstate commerce before your trademark will register.

After I register my trademark, logo, brand, slogan, or business name, do I have to do anything to maintain it?
Once your trademark has registered, you will have to file a Section 8 Declaration between the 5th and 6th year after your registration issued.  A Section 8 Declaration lets the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office know that you are still using the mark.  Most likely, you'll also want to file a Section 15 Declaration, which lets the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office know that your trademark has been registered for five years and should be deemed incontestable.  A Section 15 Declaration is usually filed with the Section 8 Declaration between the 5th and 6th year after registration—although it can be filed anytime after the 5th year.  In addition to filing Section 8 and 15 Declarations, you'll also have to renew your trademark registration every 10 years by filing a Section 9 Declaration, and, at the same time, you'll have to file another Section 8 Declaration.  Failing to file these documents will result in your registration lapsing.