Coming up with a unique business name is one of the first steps on your entrepreneurial journey. If you want to make sure no other business copies it, you need to trademark your business name.
A registered trademark will give you exclusive rights to use the chosen brand name and build a unique identity around it. As other businesses can’t use it, they can’t piggyback on your reputation.
In 2019, more than 890K resident and abroad trademarks were successfully registered by companies in the US.
That brings us to the next question:
How do you trademark your business name?
Let’s find out.
5 Steps You Can Follow to Trademark Your Business Name
The trademark application process can seem complicated, especially if you are a new entrepreneur.
Before we get into the details, we’d like to mention that you can reach out to a professional service like GovDocFiling to complete your business formation process. They can expedite the processing speed and get your business registered without any hassles.
Now that we have it covered, let’s discuss all the steps you need to follow to trademark your business name.
1. Pick a Unique Brand Name
When you’re starting a new LLC or Corporation, you want to avoid any business name that is too generic. Anything that seems a bit too obvious or unoriginal may not be memorable.
For instance, if your business sells pretzels, names like “Salty Pretzels” should be off your list. When people think of pretzels, this is most likely the first association they make with them.
If you want them to remember your brand, you need a business name that stands out. The best way to do this is to coin a term that doesn’t actually exist. Kleenex and Kodak used this strategy to come up with unique and memorable business names.
2. Perform a Trademark Search on the Chosen Brand Name
Before you proceed to trademark your business name, you want to make sure that it isn’t already in use. For this, you need to invest time in trademark research. Doing it thoroughly will ensure that you can avoid any marketing and legal issues later on.
However, it isn’t as simple as conducting a quick Google search for the proposed business name.
There are special trademark search tools that you can use to check if your business name is unique or not. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has a vast trademark database that you can check.
For a more comprehensive trademark search, you should also check out business directories and state trademark associations.
Alternatively, you can hire trademark attorneys for thorough research. They have access to in-depth search tools that lets them find similar-sounding names or phrases with alternate spellings.
Even if you go ahead with a name that sounds familiar or uses a different spacing format, your trademark application could get rejected.
3. Make Sure Your Application is Error-Free
When you’re sure that your proposed trademark name is unique, you should go ahead with the application process. To trademark your business name, you will need to fill out an application with the USPTO.
Your trademark application will require the following details:
- The name of the trademark owner
- A correspondence address
- The name that you want to trademark
- The type of goods or services that your registered business offers
- The basis for filing a trademark
- A specimen that shows your proposed trademark name in use (if your application is to use the trademark in commerce)
Make sure you have all the details ready in advance and double-check them before you submit your application.
If there are any errors in your application, the USPTO might send it back for clarification. In some cases, the trademark application can get rejected due to incomplete or incorrect information.
Typically, the USPTO sends a letter known as an Office if any problems are found. The letter explains the exact issue with the trademark application. You will also get 6 months to respond to it. If you don’t respond within that time frame, your trademark application will be denied.
4. Follow-Up Diligently
After you’ve completed the trademark application process, an examining attorney from the USPTO will review it. They will verify that the proposed business name bears no similarity to any other existing trademark.
This review process can be quite time-consuming. If there is a backlog of applications, then your trademark application review can get delayed further. In fact, it may take several months just for the review process to get completed.
Reaching the final registration stage can take even longer. Typically, it takes around 8 months from the time you filed your trademark application.
Throughout the process, you’ll need to be patient. You can follow up with the office to check on the application status at regular intervals.
5. Use Your Trademark Appropriately
If your application satisfies all the legal requirements, your trademark will get approved for formal publication in the USPTO’s Trademark Official Gazette.
At this point, other businesses get an opportunity to oppose the publication. In case of opposition, you may need legal assistance to proceed further.
On the other hand, if your trademark is approved, you’ve got to put it to use. In case of approval that is based on intent, you will get a Notice of Allowance.
This indicates that your trademark has been approved. However, to get it formally registered, you will need to use it and file a Statement of Use along with a specimen that shows its usage.
If your trademark approval is based on use in commerce, your trademark will be directly registered after you’ve resolved any opposition.
When your trademark registration process is complete, you can start using the registered trademark symbol [ ® ] next to your business name.
After that, it is your responsibility to enforce your trademark rights. Keep an eye out for anyone who might be using a business name that is similar to your trademarked name.
Ready to Trademark Your Business Name?
Regardless of the type of business you are starting, it is important for you to trademark your business name.
Otherwise, other businesses may misuse it or piggyback on your reputation. Follow all the steps mentioned above to complete the trademark registration process. The entire process may take 7-8 months, so be patient!
Brett Shapiro is a co-owner of GovDocFiling. He had an entrepreneurial spirit since he was
young. He started GovDocFiling, a simple resource center that takes care of the mundane, yet
critical, formation documentation for any new business entity.