Many business owners feel accomplished when they form a corporation in their state or states where they do business, and rightfully so. Opening a business is the ultimate American dream.
Some have a sense of safety that their business name won’t be stolen with the state filing and question the need to file a trademark at the federal level, believing their business name is protected from others using it.
If you feel protected, let me burst your bubble.
The name of your business may be protected in the state of filing, but corporation registration will not take care of other visual and even auditory brands you may have created that are associated with your business name such as slogan, logo, identifying music, and other marks.
If you have big dreams for your business you should be considering filing trademarks at the federal level with an agency called the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
The name selection with USPTO is stricter than the states corporation filing. USPTO requests a detailed description of the lines or possible lines of business for the mark. The USPTO does not grant applications of same or even similar names in the same line of business which may confuse the consumer. Corporation filing in most states does not regulate the “doing business as” or DBA additions to a filing, which may allow the use of duplicate business names.
More importantly: Trademark filing with USPTO is nationwide and may become a via to a trademark in other countries.
Trademarks allow you to register your mark with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to block counterfeit imported goods, and gives you the right to sue for trademark infringement in federal court.
Now, let’s talk about cost.
Yes, trademarks are more expensive and the process is more complex and detailed than a corporate filing. The processing times are longer since USPTO agents do a careful search of marks to evaluate the application.
It is better to file a trademark aided by an attorney since he or she can do a full assessment of your brands to protect, will do a feasibility research before submission and will submit the complex application with all the proper information. Moreover, it is great to have a trademark attorney by your side in the post-filing stage, in case of future issues associated with your brand such as litigation, filing in other countries or jurisdictions such as the European Union (EU), etc.
If you want personalized and professional attention, you should avoid internet mass filings sites, which are manned by customer service representatives, with limited to no attorney’s input.
Remember: You get what you pay for. That $69 fee for registering a trademark online (plus government fees) can easily balloon to $400, $800 and over $1,000 in extra fees, in addition to wasting your time and losing the opportunity to secure the brand you wanted.
Marcos E. Garciaacosta is a trademark and business attorney and will be straight with you. You can schedule a consultation at (480) 324-6378.