Copyrighting a name isn’t actually something you can do–but you can (and should!) trademark a name. If you missed our Trademarking vs. Copyrighting post, here’s a quick rundown:
A trademark is, essentially, the outside appearance of your brand. It’s the wrapper, the name, the logo, the specific brand colors that say “This pen is a BIC-brand pen. It was made by BIC, and I can buy it at a BIC store.”
A copyright is the internal makeup of your brand. It’s the songs you write, the costumes you design, and the performances you put on–all the creative heavy-lifting that belongs to you and you alone. The name and logo of the Hypothetical Theater Company under which you display these songs/costumes/performances is, again, the trademark; the outside appearance.
That being said, you know how to register a copyright with the US Copyright Office–but how do you register a trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office?
Step 1: Select A Mark
Your “mark”–that is, the trademark you’re registering–can be in one of 3 formats.
- A standard character mark: This is if you’re registering your brand name without an associated logo.
- Stylized/design mark: This is if your brand name has an associated logo.
- Sound mark: If you’re submitting a jingle.
(Watch this video if you need more information about choosing a mark.)
Step 2: Go to USPTO.gov.
Hover over the heading “Trademarks,” and click “Apply Online (TEAS)” on the far right side.
Step 3: Decide which initial form you need to fill out.
There are three options:
TEAS Plus: $225.
Requires you to fill out a complete application and conduct your correspondence electronically. It’s the cheapest and the most streamlined.
TEAS Reduced Fee (RF): $275.
Does not require you to fill out a complete application, but DOES require you to conduct correspondence electronically.
TEAS Regular: $400.
Does not require a complete application, and does not require electronic correspondence.
If you have all the information for your application ready, and you’re comfortable using email, you should be fine with a TEAS Plus.
Step 4: Begin filing your application.
Once you start filing your application, you have a 60-minute time limit to complete it–which is more than enough time. You’re also welcome to have an attorney fill it out for you.
Screen 1/8: Is an attorney filing this application?
Click “No,” and then skip the question at the bottom of the page. Click “continue.”
Screen 2/8: Applicant Information
Fill out all the starred fields, adding in your phone number (even though it’s not required). Scroll down and make sure to add your email address and check the box that authorizes email contact. Click “Continue.”
Screen 3/8: Upload/Enter Your Mark
On these screens, you’ll upload and/or enter the “mark” you established back in Step 1. Follow the directions, selecting the proper mark category. Click “Continue.”
Screen 4/8: Select Goods and Services
At the bottom of the next screen, you’ll see a button to add goods and services. Click it, and then type in the keyword that best describes the goods or services associated with the trademark you’re registering. (This video has more information about selecting goods and services, if needed.)
Check the box next to all the accurate keywords that pop up. When you’re done, scroll to the bottom and click “Insert Checked Entries.”
Screen 5/8: Select a Filing Basis
If you’re currently using your trademark to sell things, select 1(a). If you haven’t used it yet, but intend to, select 1(b)–just know that after filing, you’ll be required to send proof of your “trademark specimen” (i.e. your trademark on the pants you’re selling) in the future. (This video has more info on selecting a filing basis, if needed.)
Screen 6/8 (optional, depending on filing choice): Upload Your Specimen
If you selected 1(a) on Screen 5, upload an image of your trademark on some aspect of the goods/services it’s related to. Fill out a description, and enter the date of the first use of the trademark, and the date it was first used in commerce.
Screen 7/8: Confirm Contact Information
Look over the two boxes at the top of the screen–one asks if an attorney is filing the form, and the other asks if the applicant wants to appoint an optional Domestic Representative. If either of these apply, check them.
Then, double-check the other information on the screen. It should all be copied over from Screen 2. Look over it to make sure it’s correct, then scroll down and click “Continue.”
Screen 8/8: Sign And Submit
Check all the boxes at the bottom of the form, and then fill out your signature, name, the date, and your position in the company. Also make sure to add your phone number, if it isn’t already there.
Step 5: Validate your signature and pay
Scroll down to the bottom of the screen and click “Validate.”
On the next screen, fill out your payment information and submit the form.
What happens after I submit my application?
Once you hit “submit” and pay the processing fee, it’s kind of a waiting game. Stay up to date with your application status by checking the Trademark Status & Document Retrieval (TSDR) page every 3-4 months.
The USPTO also has a helpful video that covers common post-filing issues to be aware of, and this page covers the next steps that’ll come further down the line–like working with the assigned USPTO attorney.
Even though the process might seem confusing at first, it’s actually fairly straightforward–but, as made clear throughout the form, if you’d prefer that an attorney help you with the application, that’s a viable option.
Any outstanding questions about trademarks? Let us know in the comments!
Photo credit: MJ S