A trademark is a type of government-granted monopoly that identifies the origin of a product. Trademarks can include words, phrases, logos, or trade dress. Here are the easy steps to register a trademark in the United States:
  1. Make sure your mark is not too descriptive of the product, or it may be seen as too generic for registration.
  2. Get a good trademark attorney. The USPTO rejects applications with even minor errors and pays no refund.
  3. Have a trademark search done to make sure that there are no existing marks with which your mark is confusingly similar. You don't want yet another swirl for a logo.
  4. Use the name in interstate commerce, using the TM symbol.
  5. If you are registering a pictorial mark, make sure you also own the copyright.
  6. Now you can have your lawyer submit a registration to the USPTO, at a cost of about $300 per mark.
  7. After five years of continuous use, file an affidavit of continued use with the USPTO. Now your trademark is incontestable.
  8. Every ten years, pay the renewal fee.
After you have registered your trademark, make sure to follow these rules:

DISCLAIMER: Nothing you see on Everything2.com is legal advice. Only an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction can give legal advice.

Trademarks are fascinating things. Many folks don't realize that each state in the US also has a trademark registration system in place. While national ones are useful, there are some trademarks that are only needed for a small area like a state. Think about a small plumbing company that has a particular logo. They're not a national brand, but they want to prevent other plumbers in Colorado or Texas from appropriating the logo and the associated good will, which is something that can be added to a corporation's accounting books.

The state-based systems are much cheaper to use, although all it prevents is someone from using your trademark with that state. I own a trademark for a publishing company and it cost only fifty bucks. If someone attempted to register a similar trademark at the federal level, the previously existing state trademark can be used to show previous and active use. Then someone can go ahead and spend the big bucks for the federal version if needed. Getting a federal trademark will run you around $1500 each, including fees and legal fees. Note that each piece needs to be registered, like a logo and a tag line. If you can, keep everything together to prevent multiple fees for each piece.

If you're bored, you can actually scroll through the TESS system, which is the federal trademark electronic search system. Some folks jump on expiring trademarks and turn a profit.

Directions for registering trademarks or searching the system are available at the official website:

If you just want to search, the direct link to the TESS database is: http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=login&p_lang=english&p_d=trmk

Some History

Back in the early days of metalwork and art, artisans and specific businesses used small marks on their products to show that the item was legitimate. These marks ranged from a signature to a tiny impression in the materials. Of course, cheap knock-offs were rampant until the governments began registering and allowing legal action for interlopers. Folks from Paul Revere, who was a silversmith by trade, to status-minded companies like Tiffany use specific marks to indicate something is an original. If you watch shows like Antique Roadshow, you'll hear the experts talk about trademarks all the time.

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