A trademark or service mark includes any word, name, symbol, logo, sound, color, smell, or any combination, used or intended to be used to identify and distinguish the goods or services of one seller or provider, and to indicate the source of the goods or services. Trademarks can be licensed, sold, donated, and abandoned. A trademark does not prevent others from producing similar goods or services.
1.) Be the first to use the trademark in commerce. In order for a trademark to be in “use,” the good or service that the trademark represents has to be used in interstate commerce. You can also gain priority to a mark by filing an “intent to use” trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
2.) Be the first to gain registration of the mark with the USPTO.
Federal registration is not required to gain rights in a trademark, but an owner of a registered trademark gets the right to use the mark nationwide and it is constructive notice (a legal term meaning that people are assumed to have knowledge of something simply because it’s in the public record) that the party owns the trademark. Additionally, to bring a lawsuit in federal court for infringement, the party claiming infringement must have a federal registration.
If you choose not to register your trademark but your unregistered trademark is distinctive and identifies or distinguishes your products or services, you will still have some legal rights to stop someone from using the trademark without registration, but only within your geographic area of operation. If you want to protect your trademark but don’t want to register, you may use the unregistered trademark symbol—the letters ‘TM’. Using the unregistered trademark symbol indicates you have not registered the mark but are giving notice of your rights.
A trademark registration may cost between $1,300 and $2,000.
If UNHI decides to seek trademark protection, there is no personal financial investment required of the innovator.
An application usually takes between 12 and 18 months.
Not every mark may be registered with the USPTO, and some marks may not be entitled to a legal claim that others should stop using a similar mark. Some marks may be difficult or impossible to register and/or protect. For example, the mark may not be distinctive enough: “Cereal” describes the contents of the box, and will likely be denied registration, while “Fruity O’s” is more distinct and stands a better chance of registration. Registration may be denied because a mark is confusingly similar to another registered trademark: “Amazone,” a hypothetical online retailer, is more likely to be denied registration. UNHI will work with you to determine if your mark is registrable.