The Process of Registering a Trademark or Service Mark

Registered Trademark Symbol
••• By Roman Tworkowski [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You have started your business and you have a great logo that you want to use as a trademark. Or you have a service mark that describes your services. You want to be sure that no one else can use this trademark or service mark, so you want to register it. Although you can use a trademark or service mark without registering it, there are several benefits to registering this mark:

  • Registration serves as notice of your claim of ownership.
  • Registration helps support your claim of ownership if you need to go to court.
  • You can use trademark registration to help you obtain registration in other countries.

Here is the process for registering a trademark:

  1. Search the Trademark Records
    1. Before you register a trademark or service mark, check to see if someone else is already using it, with the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS)
  2. File Online
    1. If you determine that no one else is using the trademark, you can file your application online using the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS).
  3. Register internationally. International trademark registration is now available through the TEAS system. 
  4. Pay the Registration Fee
    1. Effective January 2015, trademark registration fees have been reduced, and are between $225 and $300 depending on the type of service. You must pay a separate fee for each product or service classification you are registering. For example, if you are trademarking a the title of a new series of books (like the "Dummies" books, for example), you would need a separate registration for printed books and e-books. 
  1. Include a Specimen
    1. A specimen (example of your trademark in use) must be included with your registration. For example, you might include an advertisement or a label using the logo you want to trademark. 
  2. Wait for a Response from the USPTO
    1. When the Trademark Registration Office receives your registration, they do a search to make sure it is not being used, and they review the trademark to see if it fits within their guidelines. Some reasons why a trademark might not be approved are:
      • It includes immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter
  1. It disparages or falsely portrays a person, institution, belief, or national symbol.
  2. It uses the U.S. flag
  3. It includes the name of a living person or identifies that person without consent
  4. It resembles another mark already registered
  5. It is merely descriptive or deceptively descriptive
  6. It is primarily a surname
  7. It is merely functional.
  8. If Your Trademark Registration is Approved
    1. It may take many months for your trademark to be approved. If approved, the Registration is good for ten years (for trademarks issued after November 16, 1989). At the end of that time, you must file a renewal application to maintain the trademark.
  1. If Your Trademark Registration is not Approved
    1. You may appeal the denial. Your fee will probably not be returned.

Using an Attorney Although it is not required that you use an attorney to file a trademark registrationapplication, it may be a good idea to do so if you have questions about the process or if you are not certain that your trademark will be accepted.