The legal definition of a trademark is, “any word, name, symbol, or design, or any combination thereof, used in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from those of another and to indicate the source of the goods.” 15 U.S.C. §1127. Simply, a trademark is a brand for goods and services.
Names can be a trademark themselves, as well as the display of the name if it is distinctive and displayed in a particular way. Trademarks can include sound, colors, and possibly even smells. Almost anything can be a trademark, as long as it identifies the source of the goods and services and distinguishes them from the goods and services of others.
If you have registered your business name with the California Secretary of State, this does not necessarily grant you trademark rights. Filing with California simply means that California allows you to conduct business under that name. However, a business name can also be a trademark; using your California business name to identify and distinguish the source of your goods and services from that of another is using it as a trademark.
In order to have your trademark federally protected, you must file an application and receive a registration from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). The following will run you through the steps to file your trademark application. It is important to remember that the application process can be difficult, so if you have any questions or are hesitant, contact an attorney to assist you in the filing of your application.
Step One: Trademark Search
Search the Trademark Electronic Search System (“TESS”) at http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=tess&state=4807:558eog.1.1 to see if there are already any existing trademarks similar or identical to the mark you wish to trademark. If you have further questions about searching for trademarks, the USPTO has created a video on searching the electronic database at https://youtu.be/JqiIMHm50Rw.
Step Two: Selecting and Completing the Application
There are three types of initial applications, the TEAS Plus, the TEAS Reduced Fee, and the TEAS Regular. The filing fee and requirements for all 3 are different.
The TEAS Plus Application: This application is the least expensive and most streamlined of all the applications. In exchange for completing all fields in the form marked with a red asterisk, selecting your listing of goods and services from the ID Manual, and agreeing to conduct correspondence electronically, you receive a heavily reduced filing fee of $225.00. The link to file a TEAS Plus Application electronically is https://teas.uspto.gov/forms/teasplus.
The TEAS Reduced Fee Application: With this application, you do not have to file a complete initial application. However, you must agree to conduct correspondence electronically. In exchange for conducting the correspondence electronically, you receive a moderately reduced filing fee of $275.00. The link to file a TEAS Reduced Fee Application electronically is https://teas.uspto.gov/forms/bas/. For this application, you will need to select “TEAS Reduced Fee (TEAS RF)” in Section Number 1. It is important to note that there is an additional processing fee of $125.00 should the applicant fail to comply with the electronic requirements when completed the TEAS Reduced Fee Application.
If you do not believe that you can complete the initial application, or you do not want to communicate electronically, then you must use the TEAS Regular application. This is the most expensive application with a filing fee of $400.00. The link to file a TEAS reduced Fee Application is https://teas.uspto.gov/forms/bas. For this application, you will need to select, “TEAS Regular” in Section Number 1.
Once you have decided on which application is right for you, follow the steps and complete all required information. The USPTO has many video guides and documents to guide you through the process of filing your trademark application here: https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-getting-started/trademark-basics.
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