How to Trademark a Brand Name

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Thinking about how to trademark a brand name is a great idea for any business, because it means you’re concerned with two important things: building the strength of your brand in the marketplace, and protecting the hard work that you put in and the good will that you get out of your efforts. Before we get into the details of how to go about registering a trademark for your brand name, let’s look a little bit more at the concept of a brand, and how it’s more than just a company name.

One way to understand what your brand is to think of it as everything that encompasses your company’s identity in the mind of the public. Your company name is just one component of that. Your logo or any stylized design or rendering of your company name are other factors, including any colors or other design choices. The biggest brands in the world consider every aspect of their logo design, including color and “look and feel,” depending upon the emotions and feelings they want to evoke, and you should do the same.

Why registering a trademark of a brand name is important:

Beyond the visual representation, however, is what might be considered the most valuable aspect of your brand: the associations that customers make with your company. You can’t buy a strong, well-regarded brand, nor is it an “out of the box” given when you start your company. You have to work hard to build a positive reputation – and although you can’t buy it, there may be other businesses out there who wouldn’t mind confusing the purchasing public enough that they might be able to siphon off some of your good name. Preventing this confusion, and any potential lost business, is where the benefits of registered trademark protection come into play.

When you feel that your brand is strong enough that you want to go beyond protection of just your company name – or if you just want to have maximum protection of the brand you hope to develop, right off the bat, you’ll want to make sure that you’re settled and happy with not only on your name but also on your logo or “stylized” version of your name. You’ll likely want to file under the broader protections of “standard character format” for your company name, in addition to the specific protections for your visual brand identity.

Selecting a strong brand name for a trademark filing:

For both naming and design, think in abstract, uncommon terms. The United States Patent and Trademark Office will reject generic names and designs, as well as those that are only “descriptive” and not distinctive. Also, the brand name and design you submit can’t be easily confused with an existing company already in your market space. So, it’s best to come up with a memorable, unique name that probably doesn’t have anything to actually do with your product – ensuring that you’re the first to make claim to it.

You’ll inevitably do a bit of searching on your own to make sure that no one’s has a similar brand name or concept out there. You might call that the very beginning of the research stage of your trademark registration process. Preliminarily, using the standard search engines or the search tool available through the United States Patent and Trademark Office might suffice, but before you submit your application, you need a more in-depth search. Those rudimentary tools will turn up identical trademarks, but you also need to be able to find trademarks that are similar, have alternate spellings, different word spacing, or other minor differences. General search engines aren’t built to help you find those results – increasing the likelihood of your application being rejected. Ideally, you’ll want to enlist a trademark attorney with more powerful tools available to dig deep and conduct that search the right way.

Conducting a proper trademark search and filing on a brand name:

To ensure the name of your brand is safe to use, you will want to hire a trademark attorney to conduct a comprehensive trademark search.  Once your attorney has completed the trademark research process, the next step is actually submitting your application.  A trademark application requires a lot of information – from the name of your brand, to owner of the trademark, and, whether or not you are using the trademark in commerce.  Because of the technical legal nature of a trademark application for a brand name, this is another area where it’s a good idea to use a trademark attorney who is an expert in filling out and submitting exactly the information and supporting materials that you need, to avoid delay or rejection of your application.

The trademark application process (and final considerations) for a brand name:

Once the USPTO receives your application, an attorney at their office will conduct their own review to make sure that you’re not infringing on any already-held existing trademarks. That can take up to eight months, sometimes a little bit shorter, and, provided that you’re legally entitled to the trademark for your brand name (i.e., that you’re that first person to submit such a name for consideration), the application process will be completed.

Be sure to stay wary of any possible infringement or “genericization” of your trademark – it’s your job to find it, although the government can put a stop to unauthorized use, if you have a legitimate claim. It’s no easy feat to build a strong, recognizable brand name. Congratulations on knowing the worth of a brand, and seeking the legal protection of a trademark for it – taking action now can prevent potential problems later.

Josh Gerben, Esq.

Josh Gerben, Esq. is the founder and principal of Gerben IP. In 2008, Mr. Gerben started the firm to provide high-quality trademark services at reasonable prices. Today, he is recognized by the World Trademark Review as a top trademark filer, having registered over 7,500 trademarks. The contents of this blog are for informational purposes only and may not be relied on as legal advice.

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