Unfortunately, many small business owners believe that trademark registrations, and the entire field of intellectual property, are only for international companies. Not true.
The hard work of the small business owner and the protection of its brand is important. Think about it — your company’s reach becomes international through its website. The platform is smaller, but the reach is not.
This article will explore the benefits of having a registered trademark and how to go about applying for one to protect your business’s name and brand.
A business needs to protect its brand. It’s wise to be proactive about protecting your business’s name, symbols, or designs. Those things are how clients recognize you and differentiate you from your competitors. But trademark registrations are a choice, not a requirement.
A trademark registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will extend protections under federal law where common law cannot. The use of an unregistered name or logo is known as a “common law” trademark, and these are harder to protect and enforce. They usually only apply at the local level.
Trademarks also exist at the state level. A state trademark will only offer protection within your state’s borders, but the process and fees are generally easier, faster, and less expensive than getting a federal trademark.
First, let’s start with what a trademark is. A trademark protects the use of a word, name, phrase, slogan, symbol, expression, or any combination of these from use by others. Trademarks evidence the exclusive use of the registrations by a business in connection with its operations.
A federal trademark gives the owner exclusive right of use and ownership throughout the U.S. A federal trademark is limited to the U.S., but you can file for a trademark in other countries. Those with a U.S. federal trademark can register a trademark with multiple countries with one application if those nations have joined the Madrid Protocol. They would need to complete an international application with the International Bureau of the World Property Intellectual Organization (WIPO), through the USPTO.
A trademark registered with the USPTO grants access to the federal court system for infringement cases. An infringement case against the use of a common law trademark is limited to the state courts.
Yes. But there are clarifications to this “yes” answer.
It must be made clear that an LLC name registered at the federal level doesn’t provide blanket protection. Let’s consider the following.
1. A trademark registration protects the brand at the federal level.
2. A DBA or a fictitious name often doesn’t protect anything, but registration is required.
3. A domain registration protects the website address but not the content.
It may be in the best interests of a business owner to trademark the LLC name associated with its products and services.
This subsection will address what is and isn’t a business requirement.
The registration of an LLC name at the state level is required to conduct business in the state. The protection of the name is the purpose of the registration.
The protections at the state level don’t extend to the protection of the website address. A domain registration is required to protect the address.
A trademark is not required to conduct business. However, there won’t be any protection for the brand without a registered trademark.
The name to register with the USPTO falls under a similar premise as the state. The trademark, or “mark,” must be available and original to the business.
You can file the application online after establishing an account when and if the name and logo qualify for registration. Not all applications will result in a registration, and the fees are not refundable.
If the USPTO determines that an application meets the minimum requirements, then a serial number is assigned, and an attorney will conduct the examination. The attorney will search for conflicting marks in use against the application.
It is the business owner’s responsibility to monitor the process and timely respond to any deficiencies or corrections within the application. Generally, the USPTO will abandon an application if it doesn’t receive a response to any inquiry within three months.
The examining attorney will issue the mark when all requirements and concerns are satisfied. The trademark application and registration are public record and searchable on the USPTO website.
The trademark’s owner (usually the business) must keep the registration current by filing the necessary maintenance documents. If the registration should lapse, it is canceled, and the process starts over at Step 1 with no guarantee of approval.
It’s best practice for you first to register the LLC with the domicile state. An LLC in good standing is required for the trademark application.
However, if you registered the LLC name with the USPTO before the entity was formed, then the LLC will need to purchase the mark from you. This will involve another application process and fees, but it can be handled.
Ultimately, the LLC will be the owner of the mark with the exclusive right of use.
We have experts in place here at ZenBusiness who are ready to help you form an LLC for your start-up business. Our many business services can help you begin today for $0. We’re here to focus on the business behind your business while you focus on operations and growth.
Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.
These are different things. An LLC is a business entity type. A trademark is a word, phrase, design, or symbol (or a combination of these) identifying your goods or services. A trademark helps people recognize you in the marketplace and differentiate you from your competitors.
Yes. Trademarks should be registered under the LLC as it will use the name and the logo to conduct its business. A trademark is an intangible asset of the business.
Maybe. This may become necessary if the name chosen for the LLC can’t meet the requirements for trademark registration.
The USPTO’s initial application fee is $350 per class of service or product for a standard filing. If the option is the “plus” level, the initial application fee is $250 per service or product, but there will be additional fees throughout the application process. There may be additional fees for intent-to-use applications.
Start an LLC in Your State
When it comes to compliance, costs, and other factors, these are popular states for forming an LLC.
Ready to Start Your LLC?
Enter your desired name to get started