*Please note that while Gerben Law Firm, PLLC is not located in Florida, it can assist businesses from Tampa in registering a federal trademark because it is a federal matter.
Tampa, Florida is in the midst of a major revitalization, making it an attractive place for twentysomethings and professionals – demographics that bring lucrative business opportunities. If you’re considering opening a new business in Tampa, FL – or if you’re already involved in commerce there – you want to make certain that you’ve gone through all the steps necessary to have a well-protected and established brand. One of the most effective ways you can achieve this is by registering a trademark for your business.
A registered trademark offers you several benefits: you gain broader and stronger legal protections against any possible infringements or challenges by other parties, you establish, through the United States Patent & Trademark Office, your exclusive ownership of your mark, and the use of the small “R” symbol with your business name notifies the public of your registered trademark status. Each of these benefits contributes to the protection and strength of your business name.
One thing to note: by registering through the USPTO, as mentioned above, you gain national trademark protection – not just limited to Tampa, FL. The broad, interstate protection of the USPTO is more desirable than that offered by local, state registration – or by limiting yourself to the bare-bones, common law protections of an unregistered mark. Although Gerben Law Firm, LLC, is not based in Tampa, FL, we are still able to assist you with a federal trademark registration.
What is the federal trademark registration process? There are several steps you’ll have to undergo, each involving a different aspect of your trademark and application. The following is an overview that can prepare you for registering a trademark for your Tampa, FL business, and a guideline for what to do during the process.
1) Choose a name to trademark.
When you’re choosing a name for your business (or product) to trademark, you need to think about what the USPTO calls the “strength” of your mark. Your mark’s strength refers to several things: how unique it is, how likely or unlikely it is to confuse consumers, and how closely or distantly it refers to your product or service. The more unrelated a term is to your product or service, the better your chances of success with your application, and the stronger protections you’ll have.
Words or phrases that are too descriptive of what your business offers are considered more likely to confuse consumers (since they may be commonly used terms that other businesses are using as well, whether in their names, their company descriptions, or their advertising) – the USPTO will either deny marks like those, or only give you very narrow protection. Your best chance of trademark name success? Come up with a fanciful term – one that you’ve made up yourself – to name your business, or use a word or phrase completely unrelated to your product or service.
2) Complete your trademark application.
In addition to the criteria for a trademark name, the USPTO will be specifically looking for a few things on your trademark application: how complete it is, how accurate it is, and how your trademark will be used in commerce to identify your product or service. A trademark attorney can assist you with ensuring the completeness and accuracy of your trademark application. As with any kind of application, it can become confusing as to what kind of information is requested and what’s required of your Tampa, FL-based business. Trademark attorneys are experienced in submitting these kinds of applications, and can lower the chances of your application being delayed or returned for clarification due to unclear or omitted information.
As far as identifying your product, you’ll submit what’s called a “trademark specimen.” Your specimen will illustrate and describe exactly how, where, and when your mark will be used – whether on product packaging, or a hang tag or label attached to your product itself. Your mark cannot be merely ornamental – it must be clear that it is not a design or logo for decorative purposes on your product (on clothing, for instance), but rather that it is used in a way that identifies your business as the product’s origin. Your trademark specimen is also where you’ll get more specific about how your mark will appear and be protected – whether as plain text, or in a certain font or stylized kind of type. You’ll also need to include any logos you intend to use.
3) After your Tampa, FL-based trademark is registered.
You can expect a six-to-eight month process to achieve successful registration of your trademark. The USPTO will notify you when the process is completed – that amount of time allows for the USPTO to work through its extensive queue and conduct exhaustive research to ensure that you’re not infringing on any existing marks.
Once your application is accepted and registration completed, you’re the owner of the trademark – and you have several responsibilities along with that ownership. It’s up to you to police any infringement of your mark, and to contact the USPTO, if necessary, to attempt to put a stop to it. You’ll also need to use your mark correctly to maintain it – one key aspect of that is, as mentioned, using the small circled “R” rather than the “TM” symbol. This serves as public notice of your registration, and is just one of the many protections that you gain by going through the federal trademark process.