It’s important for every business, no matter its size, to protect its intellectual property through the use of trademarks. Without the legal protection your business receives from establishing common law trademark rights or from registering its trademarks, such as the logos, symbols, signs, and expressions connected to the business, there is nothing preventing other entities from using them as well. Ultimately, that means lost customers, which means lost profits.
While securing trademark rights is critical for any business, it’s not exactly quick and easy. How long does it take to get a trademark registered anyway? The answer depends upon several factors, but it can be months, and in many cases, well over a year. For this reason, businesses should always act quickly to register their trademarks as soon as possible.
What Is a Trademark?
A trademark is a type of intellectual property that protects the specific words, designs, phrases, or symbols that identify your business. It is these symbols, designs, and phrases that help customers to identify your specific product. This makes them critical to any business, no matter what the product may be.
It’s not always obvious what a company has established as a trademark. For example, the famous Nike “swoosh” symbol is a clear example of a trademark, as well as certain marketing slogans associated with that brand, but Nike has also established a trademark right in the word “swoosh” as it relates to their logo. As a result, only this company can use that term for clothing, shoes, and other products.
Similarly, the Tabasco company has secured a trademark right in its signature hexagonal bottle cap. So while other companies can sell hot sauce and can do so in similarly sized bottles, they are legally prohibited from using that specific type of bottle cap. This protection exists because that iconic bottle cap helps customers to identify Tabasco products.
Trademarks differ from other forms of intellectual property, such as patents and copyrights, in the sense of what they legally protect. Copyrights generally cover original works, especially artistic ones such as books, songs, computer software, and architecture. Patents cover ideas, such as chemical compositions or complex machinery, for example. In each case, the work is protected from being reproduced or used by any entity without the permission of the copyright, patent, or trademark holder.
How Do You Register a Trademark?
The laws with regard to trademarks can be challenging to navigate. While copyrights are automatically generated by the creation of a product, trademarks require proper use under common law rights and a lengthy registration process to secure federal rights. It’s possible for a logo or similar IP to be protected by both copyright and trademark rights. That is, if your company designs a logo, it will automatically have copyright protection, provided it is original, but the trademark registration process requires a bit more effort (not to mention patience) on your end.
So how long does it take to get a trademark registered, then? Well, provided you act quickly when you have intellectual property you want to register as a trademark, you may only need to wait 8 to 10 months and pay a small fee. However, sometimes, the process can take longer and involve some obstacles.
Do Your Research
The best way to avoid the pitfalls involved in the trademark registration process is to begin with some thorough research. First, you should figure out what class your business or product exists in: there are many, many different types. For example, Class 2 is specifically for paint and related products, while Class 20 covers furniture. Before applying for registration of your trademark, you will want to determine exactly what class your product belongs to. You can do so by searching through the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s manual online or contacting a trademark attorney.
Next, research your intended trademark to ensure that no other company owns a similar trademark registration already. If they do, your application is sure to be denied, and the attached fees are non-refundable. Note also that your trademark doesn’t need to exactly match a preexisting one to be denied: it just needs to be similar enough that the trademark office believes that there will be a likelihood of confusion between your product and another one.
Take Time With Your Application
Once you’re sure that your trademark is original or distinctive and that you’ve chosen the correct class to register it in, you can begin filling out an application. Take your time with this step. Any mistake you make on the application can cost you: once again, if your application is denied, the fees are non-refundable, and you may lose valuable time in the trademark registration process, potentially allowing a competitor to swoop in and corner your market.
Much of the application process is exactly what you’d expect. The name of the individual or business applying for the trademark, an address, and so on. You’ll also need to provide a detailed description of the product or service you are attempting to register as a trademark. In many cases, it’s best to pull as much information about the class of your product as possible, verbatim, from the USPTO manual.
Once you have filled out the form in detail, you’ll submit it electronically, and it will be reviewed by a government patent attorney. If this attorney notices any problems in your submission, your business will receive a letter informing you of the issues that have been noted. You’ll have six months to correct them or your application will be withdrawn. This timeframe is set to drop to three months late 2022 pursuant to the Trademark Modernization Act.
After that step is completed, your prospective trademark will be published online in the government’s trademark journal. This will allow other companies to challenge the trademark if they believe they have legal grounds to do so. If you have been diligent in your research, however, other companies should have no legal leg to stand on in this regard. The publication period is 30 days. After 30 days without a challenge, the government will issue a Notice of Allowance. Once you have established proof of use of your trademark in association with the goods or services listed in your trademark application, you will finally receive your trademark registration.
Making the Process Easier
So how long does it take to get a trademark registered? Many months, even if everything goes perfectly; and if things don’t go perfectly, it can take much longer and be very costly for your business. That’s why it’s a good idea to get some help for every step in the process. Hiring an intellectual property law firm like Berkeley Law & Technology Group can take a great deal of the risk out of getting your trademark registered. An expert will help you to search for competing trademarks, respond to challenges, handle overseas trademarks, and anything else you may need when taking this all-important step in your business ventures.