Brand Identity Trademarking 101 – Part 4: How to Register a Trademark

Time for the final part of the Brand Identity Trademarking 101 series where you’ll learn how to register a trademark for your brand identity elements. If you missed the previous parts of the series, follow the links to read them now, so you understand what a trademark is, what can be trademarked, and how to choose a name to trademark.

brand identity trademarkingUse Your Brand Name in Commerce

When you’ve chosen the brand name or other brand elements that you want to trademark, you should begin using it in commerce immediately.

As part of the trademark application process and before you can obtain a trademark registration, you need to show that the mark has been used in commerce. You can do this by using it on your website, in ads, in brochures, and so on.

As long as the evidence of use in commerce that you submit shows proof that the mark has been used in customer-facing communications, you’ve satisfied this requirement in the trademarking process.

It is possible to apply for trademark protection (discussed in the next section) before you begin using a mark in commerce by submitting an Intent-to-Use form to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) with your trademark application. Keep in mind, you’ll still be required to provide proof of use in commerce later in the trademark process by filling out a Statement of Use form. Both of these forms are available here.

Apply for Trademark Protection

usptoNext, you need to complete a trademark application, which you can access on the USPTO website (find instructions here). You can fill out and submit the online application (preview it in Word format here). It’s not difficult to gather the necessary information and follow the instructions to fill out the form accurately.

If you’re trademarking a logo or other visual brand element, you’ll need to submit a specimen with your application. For example, to trademark a logo, you can include a JPG file that shows an image of your logo in the way you want it trademarked along with your online application.

You have to pay a processing fee to submit your application which is not refundable. The fee starts at $275 and increases if you want to register your mark in multiple classes of goods and/or services (you select classes in the application). You can learn more about fees here.

The USPTO recommends that you check the status of your application online every few months. You should also receive a letter or email (depending on the contact options you provided in your application) notifying you of the final decision on your application. More details about application status are here.

If your application is approved (which could take 6 months or longer), your mark is added to the USPTO Official Gazette, and you can begin using the registration symbol with it. If there are any objections to your application, you’ll be given an opportunity to respond. Once your mark is added to the Official Gazette, other parties have 30 days to submit objections to it.

Get Help

If you feel overwhelmed or confused by the trademarking process, you can consult with a trademark or intellectual property attorney who can complete all of the forms for you. There are also a variety of websites and third party companies that offer assistance, but you have to pay an added fee for their services. However, before you pay a third party company to help you, give it a try yourself.

If you follow the instructions on the USPTO website, completing the application and any other requested forms to obtain a trademark is not difficult. It’s always a good idea to process legal activities through an attorney, but if legal fees are cost prohibitive to you, you can do it yourself.

If you missed previous parts of the Brand Identity Trademarking 101 series, follow the links below to read them now:

Images: Flickr, Flickr

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com. She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of WomenOnBusiness.com, an award-winning blog for business women.