Having issues getting your logo trademark? If you’re developing a clothing line, you probably have a distinctive name, logo or slogan that you will want on your apparel. Trademarking your name, logo or slogan will prevent others from infringing on your rights. Though the process can seem daunting, it’s probably much easier than you think.
Step 1: Make Sure Your Trademark is Unique
Image via Flickr by Ariel Grimm
The very first thing you must do before you set your sights on a clothing name, logo or slogan is determine whether your image or wording is unique. Visit the USPTO website and conduct a search using the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). The Design Code Resource Search Manual will help you identify the proper code to search if you’re trademarking a logo with a design element. You may also conduct your search through the Patent and Trademark Resource Center.
Conducting a trademark search on your own is free, but you may want to enlist the services of a lawyer to make sure you have a thorough understanding of the trademark landscape for your name, logo or slogan. Trademark lawyers have extensive experience with the ins and outs of the trademark system and may be able to help you find similar trademarks that you would have overlooked on your own.
If you do overlook a similar trademark that’s registered or in use, you may unintentionally infringe on that trademark and could face legal consequences later.
Step 2: Determine the Trademark You Need
You cannot trademark every clothing label. The name and logo of a clothing line are only eligible for a trademark if it is distinctive and capable of distinguishing your products in the marketplace. Put adequate effort into creating a unique logo, however, and you should have no trouble trademarking it to ensure that no one else infringes upon your brand.
Step 3: Prepare Your Logo or Slogan
Image via Flickr by Kick Photo
If you are trademarking a logo, you will need to create a digitized depiction of the logo on a white background. Any logo that contains unique design elements should be represented in its stylized format. This allows you to trademark the distinctive artistic elements that are incorporated into your logo. If your logo does not contain design elements and is simply a word, number, letter, or combination of these, then you will represent them in “standard character” format for your trademark.
Trademarking your company name in “standard character” format is actually a smart step, regardless of whether you’re trademarking a stylized logo as well. When you trademark your company name in the “standard character” format, it is protected in any font, color, size, and configuration. If your logo merely features the company name in a stylized font without any additional design elements, this may mean that you’re better off just trademarking the name by itself as a “standard character” mark, since the logo will be covered as well simply because it features the company name.
However, if you’re trademarking a logo that does not include your company name, like the Nike swoosh, you will need to apply for a separate trademark for this image. If you’re trademarking a slogan, you will not need to worry about distinguishing design elements from standard characters. In this case, you can simply trademark the phrase in question as a “standard character” mark.
If you wish to trademark both your company name and a stylized design logo, you must apply for two separate trademarks. You cannot place a standard name and a stylized design under the same trademark application. Likewise, if you are trademarking both a logo and a slogan, you will need to file for these trademarks separately.
Step 4: Fill Out Your Application
The process of filling out your trademark application is actually quite simple compared to the steps above. Once you have a name, logo or slogan that you’ve thoroughly researched, you can fill out your trademark application quickly and easily online.
Instructions are available online to walk you through the application process, but there are a few points you may want to clarify first. When filing your trademark application, you will choose between the Section 1 and Section 44 filing bases. Section 1 applies to the majority of trademarks, particularly for most U.S.-based small businesses and start-ups. You will file under Section 1 if you are already using your mark within the United States, or if you have an intention to start using it soon. You will file under Section 44 if you are already using your mark internationally but wish to trademark it for future use within the United States.
You must also determine whether you are filing under an intent-to-use or current-use. It is more expensive to file for intent-to-use because of the added requirement of filing a Statement of Use later. Although this is surprising for many entrepreneurs, it is sometimes best to begin using your name, logo or slogan before filing for a trademark in order to save on the Statement of Use costs.
Step 5: Submit Your Trademark Application
Submitting your application is as simple as clicking a few buttons if you file by yourself online. You may also file through an attorney if you prefer. Filing through a lawyer can give you added protection and access to valuable resources if someone else contests your use of a trademark. If you file through a lawyer, the Trademark Office will correspond directly with your attorney. If you file yourself, you will receive a filing receipt and serial number promptly via email.
Step 6: Follow the Trademark Application through to Approval
Once your application is filed, you can do very little until the trademark is approved. This can take anywhere from eight months to a few years. You should check on the status of your application every three or four months to determine whether any further action is needed. It’s important to respond to correspondence promptly. If an applicant does not follow up regularly on a trademark application, the USPTO can deny petitions to revive the application later.
If you’ve been putting off your trademark application because of confusion or intimidation, there’s no reason to let these slow you down any longer. Start securing your trademark now to give your clothing a protected brand name, logo and slogan.