The Big Picture of the Trademark Process
The trademark process can feel counter-intuitive. However, it secures your longest lasting intellectual property that can grow to be your largest single asset. The trademark process can last indefinitely because as long as you keep using your brand and keep your registration healthy, you own it – potentially forever. Most of the work is in the first couple of years or so and it covers four different steps. The rest is just keeping your registration renewed and strengthened. Plan on spending between about $2,500 – $4,000 during this first part of the process and about $1,500 every five to ten years to keep the registration healthy.
Step 1: Due Diligence
While this step is optional, it can be critical to your success and can save you tens of thousands of dollars if not more. In this step, you look around to see if your brand is something you can own. You should do some free looking yourself on the internet and in magazines, tradeshows and etc. in your relevant market, first. Then have a professional search done. The search typically takes about two to three weeks to complete. As long as the search results look good, you can move to the next step.
Step 2: Application
The second step is the application step, where we prepare and file a trademark application. This step usually takes anywhere from two to three weeks, on average. This is where we carefully describe you, your brand and your goods and services in just the right way to make your rights very clear. Once this step is complete, you have a pending trademark application and don’t have to worry about someone registering your brand after the filing.
Step 3: Negotiation
Some trademark applications are initially rejected but I would say that more than half skip this step altogether. If the application is rejected we then have to convince the Examiner at the trademark office that they will not get into trouble by allowing your trademark. This step usually takes three to eighteen months and there is no guarantee that you will make it through. Sometimes the rejections are very simple to overcome and sometimes they are the start of a big struggle. Doing a search first helps you avoid the big struggle. But, if we successfully overcome the rejection, you will have your trademark and move on to the next step.
Step 4: Allowance & Maintenance
In this step, there are certain requirements to obtain registration and keep it strong and healthy. If you have not already proven your use of your brand to the Trademark Office, this is when you will be required to do so. There is a fee to pay when you prove this use. Also, around five years and around ten years from obtaining your registration, there are renewals to file along with other filings that strengthen your rights. There are government fees that go along with these as well. After that, there are renewals to make every ten years. You cannot pay early and you cannot pay too late or you lose your rights, so it is critical to keep track of deadlines and keep in contact with your attorney so that nothing is missed.
If you are able to go through all these steps successfully, you will have a trademark that lasts for as long as you are in business and that is a great asset to have.