Skip to main content

Hey there! Free trials are available for Standard and Essentials plans. Start for free today.

Registered Trademarks Explained: How to Trademark Your Business

Does your business or product have a logo? You can protect your logo with a registered trademark. Learn whether you need a trademark and how to file one.

If you own an online business, you're probably aware of the possible cybersecurity threats that can impact your company. You know about phishing scams, ransomware, hacking, and rampant plagiarism of your creative content. You keep your software up to date and insist that everyone in your company follow the best cybersecurity practices. But have you established a line of defense for your branding?

Registered trademarks protect your brand and bottom line. In the digital marketplace, brands must now defend themselves against domain hijackings, typosquatting (misspelling your brand name to get web traffic), and the brazen theft of content. Many businesses aren't even aware of these threats, and ignorance can be disastrous to the integrity of your branding. Online threats not countered by trademark protection can jeopardize the continued life of the business.

But what exactly is a registered trademark? Read on to learn what they are, their benefits, and how to create one in order to keep your business safe.

A registered trademark is represented by a specific symbol that indicates your products and services are registered and legally protected by the issuing country.

What is a registered trademark?

On a basic level, if you have a company name followed by the trademark symbol ®, that brand name has a registered trademark. When you see the ™ symbol, the company has applied for a trademark that has not been issued yet.

The working trademark definition is a word, slogan, logo design, color, or trade dress that distinguishes your business from your competitors. Over time, your trademark becomes the way potential customers recognize your company. They may also associate your trademark with the quality, value, ingenuity, and service offered by your business.

Some brand names are more distinctive than others. As such, they're capable of becoming a defensible trademark. They can be registered and defended without any additional burden of proof.

Going back to our corner cafe example, you could name your restaurant "The Corner Cafe," which is both descriptive and generic. You could build a reputation and a history of satisfied customers that create a brand for you in your neighborhood. But you could not easily assert a trademark that would keep another business from operating as a second "The Corner Cafe" across the street unless you somehow managed to register your trademark.

Unlike registered trademarks, unregistered trademarks are registered with the USPTO.

Unregistered trademarks vs. registered trademarks

A registered trademark is a lot like having the title to your house. When you have your home's title, you can call the cops to remove people squatting on your property. When you register your trademark, you can prevent third parties from using your name or a name similar to it to sell goods or offer services.

If you don't register your trademark, then someone else can. Another entity can register your trade name, giving them the right to sue for operating your business under your own name!

Here are a few things to keep in mind about registered trademarks:

  • They provide constructive notice of your trade name. Ignorance of your claim is no excuse for someone using your trademark if you have registered it. You can't tell everyone in the world that you operate your business under your chosen name. If you have registered your trademark, you don't have to. The burden of ensuring there aren't any trademark violations falls on every other business. However, you have an obligation to ensure you aren't breaking any existing trademarks.
  • They prevent other businesses from using misleading domain names. With so many extensions of domain names, it's always possible you won't have one version of your business name. If you have trademarked your domain name, it's unlawful for other businesses to use it in their URL.
  • They prevent your brand name from appearing in misleading advertising. Registering your trademark prevents your brand name from being purchased as a keyword on Google Adwords and typosquatting.
  • They ensure takedowns from Internet Service Providers and social media platforms. You can get an ISP to cancel service for a website that violates your trademark. Social media platforms will stop other businesses from infringing on your registered trademark rights on all types of social media content. Registering your trademark gives you an important tool for maintaining your brand.

You could get all of these benefits for your brand name without investing the time and money to register your trademark. Still, you may wind up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees versus a few hundred dollars in registration fees to defend it.

If you have a registered symbol, the courts will assume it's yours. You can get a summary judgment against anyone who uses your trademark without your permission. The judge will most likely rule in your favor without a trial. If you haven't registered your trademark, however, you'll have to go through a long, expensive process to prove your claim only if the judge allows the case to proceed.

The benefits of registering your trademark don't fully accrue for 5 years. During the first 5 years, a judge may allow a suit contesting your right to the trademark if there's compelling evidence. But after five years, your registered trademark becomes incontestable.

Millions of products are sold on sites like Alibaba, Amazon, and eBay. While most are authentic, some are not. Trademark registrations can be filed with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service to prevent the entry of goods that violate your registered trademark. If your online sales involve any significant brand collaborations, trademark protection is an essential step in your branding and maintaining consistency and loyalty. Ultimately, it safeguards your relationship with more prominent brands.

Benefits of registering your trademark include: protection of business, strengthening of brand, and exclusivity of product and branding use.

How to get a registered trademark for your business

While trademark disputes can be resolved in state (if both parties are in the same state) and federal courts (if the parties are in different states or a federal trademark registration is involved), U.S. businesses register their trademarks with the federal government, specifically, with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO. Keep in mind that registration with the USPTO only protects you in the U.S.

You can register a brand name, a trademark you're already using, a trademark you intend to use, or a trademark you have already registered in a foreign country.

The first step in the trademark registration process is searching the USPTO’s trademark database. You need to search for the name you want and also for similar names. Your application can be denied if your proposed brand name is too similar to any already trademarked.

The next step is to submit your trademark application to the USPTO. You'll need the following pieces of information:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Name under which your company is organized
  • Contact address
  • Name of your brand and/or a drawing of your trademark
  • A thorough description of your trademark (if it's a logo)
  • A specific list of the goods and services covered by your trademark, along with their description
  • Example of your trademark
  • Date of first use
  • Signature

You'll also be responsible for any filing fees.

Your third step is filing your application. You'll need to go through an identity verification process.

Then, you'll file 1 of 2 application forms:

  • TEAS Standard allows you to check your products and services from a list of registered products and services.
  • TEAS Plus enables you to describe your products and services in more detail.

Your application will be recorded in the system in about a week. This gives legal protection against competing trademarks filed later. However, it can take up to a year to issue you a new trademark. The same steps apply if you're concerned about how to trademark a logo.

Until your trademark has been issued, you can use the trademark symbol. This tells other companies that you have asserted a legal right to your logo and brand name. After the USPTO has officially registered your trademark, you can use the registered trademark symbol, indicating your brand name has been reserved.

Wrapping up: Does your business need a registered trademark?

Does your business need a registered trademark? Absolutely! Registering your trademark is the only way to force brand imitators to cease and desist without a lengthy court battle. Registering your trademark keeps predatory entrepreneurs from claiming your hard work as their own.

Now that you understand trademark symbols and the importance of obtaining a registered trademark, you can move forward with getting one of your business. This way, you can confidently publish social media posts, send email campaigns, and create products with your logo.

Share This Article