Trademark is a brand name. This is how your customers will identify your business and the quality of its service or products. You can register your business name, logo, and your product names. For example, McDonald’s, the double arched “M” symbol, and Big Mac are all trademarks. Trademark/service mark may include words, names, symbols, designs used, or intended to be used, in commerce to distinguish your goods or services from goods or services of others. The terms “trademark” and “service marks” are often used interchangeably, and both offer the same protections. If you use your trademark or service mark in interstate commerce (you do business with customers in other states or internationally) you can register your mark both at the federal and state level. If you do business exclusively within your state, you can register at the state level.
Federal trademark or service mark registration offers your business the following benefits:
– Your exclusive rights to use the mark nationwide and to sue others for infringement;
– Easier to register your mark internationally with U.S. registration as a basis;
– Ability to record your registered mark with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service to prevent importation of infringing foreign goods;
– Public notice of your claim of ownership of the mark;
– Listing in the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s databases.
Conduct a search prior to prosecuting your trademark. You can do it yourself or hire someone else, just make sure that this is done right because trademark approval takes long time and you don’t want your application returned because of a simple mistake.
You do not have to be a U.S. citizen to register your trademark or service mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Trademark or service mark registration process can take anywhere from 7 months to several years, depending on complexity and on whether you did everything right when filing. The trademark or service mark registration will stay valid as long as you timely file maintenance documents. You must file a Declaration of Use under Section 8 between the fifth and sixth year after registration. You must also file a Declaration of Use and Application for Renewal under Sections 8 and 9 between the ninth and tenth year after registration, and every 10 years thereafter. If you fail to timely submit these documents, your registration will be cancelled and cannot be revived.
State level registration
State trademark registration provides much less legal protection than the federal registration. However, state trademark registration will notify anyone who checks the state’s list that the trademark is yours. State level registration is usually quicker. In California, registering a trademark with the Secretary of State can be done in a few weeks.