How to Trademark a Brand in 3 Steps
Trademarks are 100% necessary.
They allow you to lock down your brand: meaning you're the only company in your industry that can use your name. This helps your brand stand out in the crowded marketplace and protects you from trademark infringement lawsuits that prevent you from operating nationally. Here's how to get started trademarking your brand in 4 simple steps:
1. Review your brand
I know you love your brand! But, a lot of words can't be protected with trademarks. If you can't trademark your brand, then anyone can sell your same products with your same company name. That doesn't help your company stand out in the marketplace and leads to lost customers.
You can't trademark:
Generic words: The common term for the product. Example: Apple (fruit), Coffee
Descriptive words: Words that describe the ingredients, quality, use, location of your product/service. Example: Peach Body Scrub, California Candles
You can trademark:
Suggestive words: Suggests qualities of product but does not describe them. Example: Birchbox, Netflix
Arbitrary words: Generic word applied to something other than common meaning. Example: Apple (computers). Dove (soap)
Fanciful words: Made up with no common meaning. Example: Google
2. Run a Trademark search
The number of trademark applications is skyrocketing, especially in popular areas like apothecary or apparel products. If your company name is similar to an existing trademark, you won't be able to protect it and you'll likely receive a cease and desist letter in the mail demanding that you rebrand or face a lawsuit.
Let's avoid that!
A trademark search allows you to see if your company name is too similar to an existing company. It's not as simple as inputting your exact company name and hitting search. You'll need to search for similar sounding words, similar spelled words, alternate pronunciation of words, complex words, foreign translations, and words found in other trademark registers. Once you get all the necessary search results, you'll need to analyze trademark law and policies to determine if any conflicting results will hold up your application.
It's probably best to call in an expert to run your trademark search. It needs to be done correctly to make sure that your brand is available before you begin a trademark application.
3. File your trademark application
Trademarks give you the exclusive rights to use the name nationally. So if someone else registers your trademark, they’ll own the rights to your name nationally. You'll only be able to use it in your geographic region (typically your city). That's not ideal!
Think about how many brand pieces feature your company name: your website, social media, business cards, products, marketing materials, press links, inventory, etc. If you want to operate nationally, you'll need to change all of that, pull back all inventory with the brand on it, and possibly pay monetary damages. You'll lose customers, money, and valuable momentum.
So, if you find a great name, you need to file your trademark application now!
You'll file your trademark application with the United States Patent + Trademark Office. If everything in your application is good to go, your trademark will usually take between 8-10 months.