*Please note that while Gerben Law Firm is not located in Ohio, it can assist businesses from Ohio in registering a federal trademark because it is a federal matter.
Cincinnati, Ohio is home to a number of major companies across many industries, including several Fortune 500 companies. The city has proven itself to be a leading supporter of both established businesses and new ventures, and no matter what area of that spectrum you fall on, it’s important for you to know how to protect your brand name through trademark registration for your Cincinnati business and, if necessary, your products and/or services.
In Cincinnati, Ohio, as with any other city or region across the country, your best bet for maximum protection of your trademark is to file a federal application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, rather than a local application. This protects you in a few ways. Even if you only start out or intend to do business locally, a federal trademark gives you the freedom and protection to expand nationally if the success of your business allows for it. Federal trademarks cover interstate commerce, which any business with a website can engage in.
You’re also protected from other companies outside of Cincinnati using the same mark and potentially trying to challenge or cancel your mark. Even if your local trademark holds up in those cases, you will like be embroiled in legal headaches and costs. A federal trademark serves as national notice of your ownership of a name for commerce, and makes it less likely that a company located elsewhere will attempt to challenge your mark.
Depending on what line of business you’re in, the trademark process may differ in the details. That being said, Gerben Law Firm, which is based in Washington DC, can assist business throughout the United States in registering federal trademarks. There are a few key steps to obtaining federal registration of your trademark. Let’s take a look at what they are.
1) Develop your trademark name and/or logo
The key element in registering a new trademark is that the name (or logo) is not already being used in a way that could be confused with your business. That definition of “confusion” covers identical names as well as similar names. It’s also limited to your industry or similar industries. If you’d like to register a mark that’s similar to, or the same as one in another industry it’s a good idea to consult with a trademark attorney to check if your field is dissimilar enough to prevent any potential confusion in the eyes of the United States Patent & Trademark Office.
Another point to be wary of in determining the name you’d like to trademark is to avoid being too descriptive of the product or service you’re offering. In other words, your name should merely be comprised of the name of your product, or elements of it – it should be an unrelated word or term, or even a completely made up name. This is referred to by the USPTO as a “fanciful” term, and they have the best chance of success, since they can’t be confused with any other marks already in existence, and you have the strongest proof of ownership over a word or term that you’ve created yourself.
2) Conduct trademark research.
Remember: with a federal trademark, you’ll need to be aware of companies not only in Cincinnati, but across the country. You’ll also need to be as thorough as possible in researching companies with or without registered trademarks. If another company has been using a name, even if they haven’t registered it, they have a claim of priority over it (unless you can prove you used it first). Search engines typically don’t provide a complete picture of any potential trademark conflicts or challenges, and the tools provided by the USPTO to the public aren’t much better – they don’t account for misspellings, alternate spellings, and other variations that may lead to a rejected application.
3) Submit your trademark application.
This is where you’ll provide information about your Cincinnati-based company, your product or service, and, most importantly, the trademark you wish to register. The USPTO will use this information to make a determination of a successful or returned application. In addition to the information about your company and product/service, you’ll need to describe and/or illustrate your trademark as it will be used in commerce. You’ll need to think about questions like Will I use a special font? Will I have a unique color scheme? Will there be design elements or a logo as part of my trademark? Filling out your trademark application correctly will ensure that you get all of the rights and trademark protections that you intend to.