knowledge base.

How to trademark a name

When can I trademark a name?

When you begin to use a brand, it immediately qualifies for common law trademark protection! Common law trademark protection is a first step below federal trademark registration.  To strengthen your protection options, federal trademark registration offers a greater variety of rights and protections for your brand!


What do I do before filing for trademark protection?

If you are looking to register your trademark to receive federal trademark protection, the first step in the process is to determine whether your brand is eligible for a trademark.

Use the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) to determine whether existing trademarks of a similar nature are already on the trademark register.  In the United States, the standard for whether another brand will be compared to yours is whether the name is “confusingly similar” to a consumer.  This is a standard where the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) compares the sound, appearance, and commercial impression of trademarks to one another to see if someone might get confused and think they come from the same source.

This can help determine whether you can protect a potential name.  In these early stages, think about what goods and/or services are connected with the brand.  This is a completely optional part of the process, but a good practice.

You may also want to look into whether your name is “strong” enough to warrant protection.  A quick test: the more your name describes the actual goods you sell or the services you provide, the less likely you can protect the name.  For example, “Taco Seasoning” for taco seasoning probably can’t be protected.  “Quality Dry Cleaners” for high quality, dry cleaning services likely can’t be protected.


What is the process for filing for trademark protection?

To start the trademark application process, determine what type of trademark you’d like to register, gather information about ownership and about the products and services associated with the mark, identify your goods or services, and pick a filing basis.  Filing basis refers to whether you are currently using the brand and selling the goods or services, or if you are still planning to launch.  After gathering this information, the trademark application can be prepared through the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS).  Remember that trademark applications become public after filing, so someone can look it up after you file!


How long does it take to get a trademark registration?

The average timeline for a trademark application takes 13-18 months.  When the application is first submitted, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) takes about 4-6 months to begin their initial review of the application. If accepted, the application is published on the Official Gazette for 30 days before proceeding to the Register where the applicant will be issued a certificate of registration.

Author: Jacob Salit.

Still have questions? Let's talk!

More insights: