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Small Business Tips

How to Register a Trademark in the US

Manasa Reddigari

You've developed an eye-catching logo or a snappy slogan for your business. How do you ensure another business doesn't use it? The best way is to register a trademark. Read on to learn how to register a trademark to protect your brand.

Why would you register a trademark?

Trademarks are symbols, words and other expressions designated with the "®" symbol for use by a particular business to identify its products or services. Because your trademark sets you apart from your competitors, it should be unique to your business.

You wouldn't want other businesses operating in the same niche or other niches to use the trademark for their use. Yet, the increasingly global and virtual nature of business means that infringing on another business's trademark is all too easy in the modern day.

Federally registering a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office allows you to protect your trademark to an extent from accidental or intentional infringement by others. If you have a registered trademark, and someone infringes on it, you can often resolve legal disputes quickly.

Trademark registration also lends authority and clout to your business. People all over the world know trademarks like Apple's bitten apple business logo.

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How do I register a trademark?

Check whether your trademark has already been claimed. Search the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) for similar trademarks and verify there are none.

If there is a match, investigate further to ensure you don't register an earlier established trademark. A patent and trademark attorney can help you through this process.

Next, use the Acceptable Identification of Goods and Services Manual to classify the products or services associated with the trademark. Create an image of the trademark, if it's an image.

Apply for the trademark online through the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS). The application fee is currently $400 for the TEAS regular form, but you may qualify for a reduced-fee application. You can also choose to have your attorney file this application. You can track your application through the Trademark Application and Registration Retrieval System.

Don't forget, you may be able to write off the cost of your trademark.

Do you need to register a trademark?

You don't have to register a trademark. Yet, doing so can protect your business's brand image, which can be difficult to recover if damaged.

If your business operates in a small geographic area, the odds of another business in your area infringing on your trademark might be low. But that doesn't mean another business in another town or state won't unknowingly use your trademark.

If you don't register the trademark, another business might conceive of and register an identical trademark. This could create legal hassles down the road if that company does commerce using the same trademark for a similar product. It could also confuse your customers as to which business they are actually dealing with.

Registering a trademark at an early stage of business lays the legal groundwork needed to stave off infringement claims before they occur. The cost of trademark registration is often much less than the potential monetary damages you could suffer as a result of trademark infringement.

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