How can I register a trademark in the United States?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 6, 2012

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The procedure required to register a trademark in the United States involves a great deal of red tape and can take some time. Between the paperwork and the actual reviewing process, the estimated time for a trademark to be approved is roughly three months.

How can I register a trademark in the United States

All intellectual property trademarks begin with an idea. Whether you research other trademarks or hire a graphic designer to form something new, you want to create a trademark that both describes your business and is eye catching enough to attract consumer attention. During the phase of creation you may want to carry out public surveys or print out some sample packaging to see how the new trademark will look. It’s advisable to register a trademark if you’ve made any of these investments.

Before you begin to register a trademark, you will need to run a search on the trademark website. The program, known as the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) allows for searches by design, words, or both. Ideally, you should run all three searches before you begin to register a trademark, because if an identical mark exists and is in use, your application will automatically be denied.

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How to Register a Trademark After I’ve Completed My Search

Once your search is complete and you have verified that your trademark is unique, it’s time to fill out the application. You can register a trademark by submitting an application online. Download and submit your form here.

Application for trademark registration occurs before an administrative tribunal. The Trademark Office examines your application and permits it to go forward or denies it. If you lose your arguments for registration, you may then appeal that decision to the Trademark Trial & Appeal Board. After you clear the examination hurdle, your mark is published in the Official Gazette for Opposition. Third parties may then engage in a trial-like proceeding (an Opposition) to prevent the registration of a mark.

However, these are all “administrative” proceedings which affect only registration and not use in the market place. You must go into Federal Court to get an injunction to stop an infringer’s use. Victory in the Trademark Office does not accomplish this.

Getting Help

For more information on how to register a trademark or the various processes that trademarks go through during registration, go to the United State Patent and Trademark website to view instructional videos and read handouts from the patent office. For assistance in filing your trademark, contact a trademark or business attorney for a consultation.

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