Startup Essentials Series: Questions to Ask Before Trademarking Your Brand

Startup Essentials Series: Questions to Ask Before Trademarking Your Brand

What can be one of the most valuable assets for a startup? The startup’s trademark, which
includes the brand assets, logo, company name, and tagline.

Trademarks help keep your brand ID safe; no one else in your market is supposed to be able to
use your brand or trademark for a similar concept. Here are the answers to 3 of the most
frequently asked questions we get surrounding trademarks:

1. Should Registering Our Trademark be a Priority When Our
Startup Has Limited Funds?

You’re a bootstrapped startup with a killer name but you don’t want to spend a pretty penny to
register a Trademark. You’re not alone; many new startups are working with a limited budget
and prefer just to register a single trademark, or operate with a common law trademark. The
reality is, registering a Trademark under the United States Patent and Trademark Office
(“USPTO”) can be expensive. Keep this in mind when registering a mark that the USPTO
charges a filing fee per class of goods or services. Naturally, you’ll be paying a higher fee if you
register in more than one trademark class. An applicant may spend roughly $225.00 for one class
of goods or services and spend approximately $2,000.00 in filing fees registering a mark under
every class of goods and services that it may fit. If your startup is strapped for cash, then it is
wise to register the business name under a standard character claim (the standard format of a
mark in a non-stylized form).

A standard character claim essentially means your registration broadly covers your name
regardless of what font or stylistic elements are used, i.e., logos, stylized fonts, etc. Keep in mind
this protection doesn’t offer protection for the design elements of your logo. However, the best
strategy moving forward for a bootstrapped startup is filing a standard character mark for the
mere fact that if for whatever reason you decided to protect the design elements of your mark
and not the name and you change your logo (trust me it will happen) you must reregister your
new logo.

2. Did I Claim my Mark by Obtaining a Domain Name?

Here’s a tip: if a search on GoDaddy tells you that your domain name hasn’t been claimed, and
you claim it, that still doesn’t mean you’ve claimed your mark – you’ve become an online
squatter (sort of)! To claim a mark, you should go through the application process; however,
there’s an essential question asked before applying: are you applying for 1) In Use, or 2) Intent to
Use?

In Use: this means the trademark applicant is alerting the USPTO that the mark is in actual use
in commerce, either across state lines or between the United States and another country. This
doesn’t mean when you obtain your domain name or incorporation that you satisfied the
requirement. This is the sort of confusion most startups have. Actual use essentially means that
you’re telling the USPTO that the mark is being used in commerce either across state lines or

between the US and another country. In other words, if you made a sale across state lines using
your mark, you’ve satisfied the requirement.
Intent to Use: This one is pretty self-explanatory: either you haven’t used the mark in commerce,
or it’s been in commerce inside one state boundary. Also, the USPTO will not register the mark
until the applicant begins actual use (see above).

3. How Long Does It Take To Get A Trademark Approved From The
USPTO?

This is a common question, and the answer is usually not what a start-up wants to hear. Here’s
the math:

  • Review the application: 4 to 6 months
  • Response to the Office Action: around 6 months
  • Publication period in the Official Gazette: around 3 months
  • Issuance of the certificate of registration: around 2 to 3 months
  • In total, it can takes between 13 to 18 months to get a trademark.

The Firm will provide the following services for a flat fee of $1,500.00, which includes, but is
not limited, filing fees and costs, comprehensive trademark search, opinion letter explaining
trademark search, preparing application and communicating with USPTO.