What is a trademark? A trademark (informally called a brand name) is any symbol, word, phrase, slogan, logo, or design (or a combination of these) that is adopted and used by someone in connection with products or services, and that is used to identify and to distinguish those products or services from someone else’s. A trademark is essentially a source identifier for products or services.
What should I do before I start using my trademark on my products or services? After you select a possible trademark, a due diligence search should be conducted to see if anyone else is already using a confusingly similar trademark for similar products or services. The trademark searches are often conducted at the USPTO (for determining whether you have the right to obtain a federal trademark registration), informal Internet searches, and a formal search of “common law” sources.
How do I protect my trademark? After the due diligence search, you may decide:
1) to go ahead and start using the trademark without a registration by building common law trademark rights;
2) to file a state trademark registration application if you do not plan to expand outside of your state in the foreseeable future (see your state’s Secretary of State); and/or
3) to file an application to obtain a federal trademark registration, seeking nationwide trademark protection (see www.uspto.gov).
How can a trademark be used? A trademark may be placed directly on the product or on the product packaging, or it may be used on websites, brochures or other promotional materials for services. The trademark symbols TM and SM may be used on products or for services, respectively, even if the mark is not registered. The federal trademark registration symbol ® may only be used with a trademark that has been has been registered with the USPTO (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office).
Where can I register my trademark?
You may register your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office or at your state's Secretary of State. Your trademark attorney can guide you about your specific situation.
How long will my trademark protection last?
Generally, trademark protection can last indefinitely if you continue to use it in association with your goods/products or services. Registered trademarks must be renewed periodically. For example, Arkansas registered trademarks must be renewed every 5 years. Federal trademark registrations must be renewed every 10 years (after an initial 5 year renewal).
You are uniquely you. You have more questions about protecting and enforcing available rights in your brand. Whether you are just getting started, ready to start the trademark registration application process, or want to grow your business, trademark attorney Rashauna Norment has experience providing trademark legal services to a variety of clients.
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