When Should You Start The Trademark Process?

When a business owner loves an idea, brand, name, or service concept, it is essential to take action to register that intellectual property with a trademark. Falling in love with a name, brand concept, logo, or title and then losing it because of an intellectual property conflict can be heartbreaking, even for the most experienced business owner. For small businesses or startups, losing a new name or concept can be even more devastating. Business owners should consider trademarking their intellectual property ideas immediately. 

Deciding When You Need a Trademark

Trademark registration legally protects a brand name, good name, or service name. Companies can also trademark logos, mascots, and more. Technically speaking, the term “trademark” refers to the name or concept the business wants to protect. “Registering” the trademark provides it with legal protections. The legal protection of registration prevents others from using a trademark for their related goods and services without permission. 

Businesses can start using their logo and business names at any time. However, a legal battle could ensue if businesses do not check to be sure the name is not already in use. Using a registered trademark without permission is considered to be trademark infringement.

Does a Name Need a Registered Trademark?

Not every business name or service name needs a registered trademark. Simply using a business name offers some trademark protection, as a business owner uses that intellectual property within the stream of commerce. However, the benefit of taking the time to register a trademark is substantial. It allows business owners to conclusively prove when they started using their intellectual property in the event of any dispute in the future. In general, companies must show that they used a name first in any particular industry to have trademark protection. Often, registering a trademark is the easiest way to do that. 

In addition, registering a trademark offers legal options to protect a business’s intellectual property that is simply unavailable without registration. For example, depending on the facts and circumstances, businesses might not be able to bring a trademark infringement suit to federal court at all (in the event someone uses or steals the company’s name) if a trademark was never registered.

Checking Existing Trademarks

The first step in using and registering a trademark is to search and see if any other business is already using that name. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provides a helpful search tool to use to search currently registered trademarks. Businesses might also want a general online search or use their state’s trademark database. Companies should search both throughout the United States as well as in any state where they want to operate. 

If the name is already trademarked, a company might need to develop a different name. Using the same name in a similar industry can lead to trademark infringement, so companies should take proper steps to avoid those situations. It is important to note, however, that searching for a trademark online is a nuanced skill. Even if you do not find an exact match, the USPTO may still consider that a similar name to one registered could be trademark infringement. An experienced intellectual property attorney can help a business owner through this process to ensure that their legal and intellectual property rights remain protected.

When Should You Start The Trademark Process for Your Intellectual Property as a Business Owner?

The earlier the process for registering a trademark is started, the better. Protecting a trademark requires that a business show that it was the first to use the trademark. Because of this “race in time,” it is essential that companies take steps to register their trademark as soon as they realize they want to use it. The longer a business waits, the more risk there is that another business will use it and therefore forfeit its use. 

Some companies need to start marketing campaigns before starting the registration process. They invest time and money into developing a name for their business, good, or service, only to discover trademark infringement issues that they should have realized existed. Going through the trademark registration process, with the help of Amini & Conant, may help to avoid this stressful situation. 

How Long Does It Take to Register a Trademark?

Registering a trademark can be very time-consuming. The application process is often daunting. It requires the following information:

  • Name, address, and personal details of the entity requesting the registration (it can be an individual or business)
  • The mark the business wants to protect (include drawings, colors, etc. if applicable)
  • The products and/or services that the mark will cover
  • The class of goods or services in which the mark should be categorized
  • An example showing that the mark is in use, including a description of when it was first in use

Businesses and individuals must also pay a fee for the application. Registering in more than one class of goods or services also requires additional fees. 

All in all, businesses can expect the entire trademark registration process to take around one year from start to finish. The application must go through a thorough vetting process once it is submitted. Then, the USPTO might have questions or request additional information to process the application. The quickness of response to those additional requests for information will affect the overall registration timeline.

When Should You Start the Trademark Process?

Picking a name for a business or brand can be a difficult process. It can be an incredibly emotional process for a small business or startup. Once that particular name is decided upon, it can be disappointing to discover that someone else is already using that name, which is why it’s best to start the trademark process while selecting a name. 

As your company considers names, start working through the USPTO’s search tool for each name. The business can eliminate possibilities they are considering by doing this simple search. Once the company discovers options that will work and are not registered at the federal level, it is prudent to consider seeking a trademark attorney’s advice to do more extensive searches. Working through the trademark registration process will help avoid issues with trademark infringement or investing needless time and money into marketing a name that the company cannot use.

Using an Intent-to-Use Trademark Application

One of the requirements for registering a trademark is to show that the company is already using the trademark. If the business is just getting started or not ready to market yet, it can file an “intent-to-use” application with the USPTO. This application states that the business or individual intends to use the mark within six months of the application and essentially reserves the name for a time while the business gets ready to start marketing. 


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