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What is a Registered Trademark?
This is a trademark that has undergone registration with a recognized and trusted trademark office. In the United States, your trademark or service mark will be registered with the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office (USPTO).
A registered trademark notifies the public that you are the rightful owner of the mark and gives you a legal presumption of ownership and exclusive rights to use the mark subject to the trademark registration. It also better protects you if you notice that your trademark is being misused.
What Can I Register as a Trademark?
A registered trademark acts as a sign that distinguishes your goods and services from your competitors. A trademark can either be in the form of letters, words, design, slogan, colors, shapes or sounds.
Regardless of how the mark is structured, however, it must be distinctive. It should be capable of differentiating your goods and services. Your mark cannot be something too generic or something that is too similar to an already registered trademark.
It is impossible to register trademarks simply using words describing your goods or services or explaining they are of high quality and how much they are of value to the consumer public.
For example, the Coca-Cola company would not have registered “a great-tasting, caffeinated, carbonated beverage.” This is too generic. Any soda company could use this tagline. You would register a catchier more specific phrase that you want to be associated with your product.
In the past, Coca-Cola has used registered trademarks such as “Coke Is It!,” “Always Coca-Cola” and “Open Happiness.” These taglines are unique and used in all of their marketing, so when people hear those words, they associate it with Coke.
You should ensure your choice of trademark name, tagline or symbol entails a distinctive character. Otherwise, your mark will have a low chance of getting approved and registered with the USPTO.
How do I Choose a Good Trademark?
Using the criteria discussed above regarding uniqueness, there are some other helpful tips to consider in creating your trademark:
- Make sure that your trademark is understandable, easy to spell and remember.
- Avoid using geographical names, common names, surnames, and other generic words that describe the quality or value of the goods I am selling.
- Evaluate the market thoroughly to make sure that there are no similar names and symbols already in use. Seeing other successfully registered trademarks can also help you understand what makes a good trademark.
How Do I Register My Trademark?
Here are some of the basic steps that you will take to register your trademark:
- Create a distinctive mark
- Conduct a thorough search to be sure it doesn’t violate another mark already registered
- Prepare your trademark registration application
- Submit your application to the USPTO, including paying the related fees
Although it seems fairly simple, there are many things to consider at each step of this process. Hiring a good trademark lawyer is the most valuable thing you can do to ensure that your application is accepted by the USPTO — and that you do not waste your time and application fee on a rejected application. He or she will be familiar with the USPTO registration and the application process.
A trademark attorney will understand the laws and cases that determine what makes a trademark unique and will be able to better protect your trademark from misuse from the outset of this process.
How Long Does My Trademark Registration Last?
Generally, a registered trademark or service mark will last for ten-year terms. Then, once you have registered, you can expect ten years of protection.
However, there is a caveat. Between years five and six of your trademark registration, you have to do some housekeeping. You have to send files and documents to the USPTO to maintain the registration. This is where keeping a good relationship with your trademark lawyer will help to be sure that you are doing all things necessary to keep your mark in good status to maintain your trademark registration.
Once the first ten-year term of your registered mark is complete, you’ll get ten-year increments of successive registration thereafter.
Even though it has gone through the application hurdles, there is more to the process. Maintain the paperwork to have final complete successful federal registration. This allows you to use the R in a small circle or the S in a small circle. Also, it gives a certificate and nationwide protection, with all the rights that come with it.