Yo Dave! So I’m looking 2 trademark my group’s name, and once its trademarked will I get a certain certificate of trademark to show it’s legit?
“Yo Dave!”? Okay. After much thought, however, I have decided not to write this in “SMS short text” nor am I going to use street patois either. We cool w’ that, brutha?
What you ask is a quite reasonable question, however, and while I am not a lawyer specializing in intellectual property issues or, for that matter, anyone involved with the legal profession other than as a customer, I can share a bit about how trademarks work as I have a number of them, including a registered trademark for “Ask Dave Taylor”.
The place to start is the US Patent and Trademark Office web site, which has a handy trademark search tool.
Why start there? Because the groupname, company name, brand or other word or phrase you seek to trademark might already be held by another company, so it’s a critical first data point.
Let’s say your group is called “Digital Street Posse”. Is that taken? To find out, click on “Trademark Search [TESS]” from the middle of the USPTO home page, then choose a “Basic Word Mark Search”. You’ll see this:
Everything can be left as defaults, so a click on “Submit Query” reveals that “No TESS records were found to match the criteria of your query.” WHich is good. That means there are no matches, so it’s (theoretically, at least) available to trademark.
To see how it looks when there is a match, back up and search for “street posse”. Turns out that is trademarked, but the trademark status is “abandoned”, as shown here:
Looks like they applied and were granted a trademark back in 1992 and didn’t pay the renewal fees to the USPTO so it’s now abandoned. That means that it could be a trademark possibility too. The ones you can’t contest are “live / active”.
So “Digital Street Posse” seems available, so the next question is…
How Do You Apply For a Trademark?
Truth be told, I used an attorney for my trademark applications, and that’s probably the smartest path, but the USPTO has an online application process too. Go back to the home page, search for “Trademarks: File Online [TEAS]” and click on it.
The first thing you’ll see is that they recommend you get an attorney for this process. Still undaunted? There’s a fairly complicated application form to fill out and a $275 fee for TEAS Plus or $325 fee for a standard Trademark/Servicemark Application, Principal Reggister that you’ll need to pay. You can read about it on the site, of course, but here’s the main difference between the two:
Now let’s say you do apply for a trademark and it’s granted. That will definitely take a while, and if there are any other companies that contest your trademark application (as has happened more than once with our trademark registrations) it can take a year or longer.
Finally, once the trademark is granted, you do get a letter from the USPTO informing you of this. More importantly, you can now search for your trademark in the TESS database and see that it’s there. Which means you can point competitors and others to your trademark registration too.
Oh, and one cool thing? Once it’s registered you get to use the ® symbol rather than the (™) symbol because it’s a registered trademark. It’s subtle, but it definitely seems far more legit.
Hope that’s helpful, and please do remember that I’m not a patent, trademark or copyright lawyer so please don’t act upon any advice or information I’ve given here without also consulting with an actual attorney who does know what she’s talking about.