Starting your own business can be exciting as it allows you to follow your passion while benefiting from your hard work. As part of the start-up process, you should take the time to create and refine a brand that encompasses and embodies your goals. This branding includes the name of your business- maybe a slogan, too- and visual markers you want people to associate with your business, which will be on display in everything from your marketing material down to the invoices you send clients. These details are the trade and service marks of your brand, which should distinguish you from competitors. However, before you invest a lot of time, effort, and money into any brand, you should consider performing a trademark search. This search examines current and pending trademark registrations across the United States. This step can provide you piece of mind that no one has previously registered a trademark like yours in the past or provide you with an understanding of potential issues in using your desired marks so that you can change or alter your marks as needed. If registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”), your trademarks are afforded protection on a national level. In the internet age, this level of protection has become critically important for any business, but especially those with websites.
Performing a Trademark Search
A comprehensive trademark search and analysis is a good idea for any new brand because you don’t want to put a lot of time, energy, and capital into a mark only to discover another company is already using a mark that’s the same or similar to yours in your industry. For those brands utilizing innovative names and logos, a trademark search can be a fairly straightforward process. Many businesses elect to use more traditional marks such as family names or terms that invoke an inherent associate with the company’s business. For example, a moving company may want to use the mark “ABC Moving”
An experienced intellectual property attorney can review the mark you want to use and then perform a search of the current and pending trademarks within the USPTO database to determine whether any of these marks are identical or so similar to yours that they may cause confusion for consumers. If similar marks are discovered during the trademark search, an analysis of the similar marks should to be performed to determine whether the USPTO is likely to reject your mark as it creates a likelihood of confusion. Submitting an application for a potentially conflicting mark may halt, or even end, the trademarking process.
Registering a Trademark
Once your attorney has determined that the mark has a fair chance of being registered, they’ll submit an application to the USPTO for review. In general, this review process doesn’t start until 3 months after the application is submitted. At that point, the application is provided to a USPTO attorney known as the Examining Attorney. The Examining Attorney reviews the mark and its application to determine whether the application can proceeding, at this time they will also review current and pending trademark registrations to determine whether they believe your mark could cause a likelihood of confusion. If there are any issues with the application or if the Examining Attorney has discovered a prior mark that they believe is confusingly similar to your own, they will issue an Office Action. These actions must be responded to within 6 months. If a mark moves beyond the initial examination, the USPTO will publish your mark for 1 month. This publication period provides owners of other marks with an opportunity to object to the registration of your mark. These objections are fairly rare but create another potential hurdle in the trademark registration process. However, once the mark has made it past its publication period, the USPTO will then register your mark and issue you a certificate of registration.
Going through the process of registering trademarks for your business ultimately results in an increase your intellectual property holdings, which in turn can increase the value of your business. When you consider growing, financing, or selling your business, these parties will look to the value recorded in your books and at the strength of the protection you’ve surrounded your brand with. By filing for trademarks for your business name, slogans, logos, and other designs used in your marketing you provide investors and potential buyers with a strong basis for protecting the brand and business.
If you’re looking for experienced guidance in reviewing your intellectual property and filing for trademarks, the team at Chase Law Goup, P.C. can help. Reach out to us by calling (310) 545-7700. We are your local business attorneys who want to help your business grow. Set up a free consultation today.