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What is a Trademark?

A trademark is a mark that you use to show your brand is unique. It tells the public that your brand and company are not the same as others. While you can register your trademark with the state, you should federally register it and actively police it to ensure no one infringes on your trademark.

A trademark does not have to be registered, but you do not have any rights over the mark if someone else claims to have used it before you. Generally, people outside of the area you do business can also use the same trademark. Registering the trademark in your state might give you some protection in your state, but someone in another state can use the same trademark.

If you federally register your trademark, no one can use the same trademark as you in the same or similar area of business. This is generally going to be the best way to register a trademark since you do not want someone else profiting from your good reputation or stealing your ideas and claiming they had the idea and the trademark first.

How Does a Business Benefit from a Trademark?

A trademark is your business’s identity. As part of your brand, it helps people recognize your business, including your reputation and what you sell. You can use your trademark to help people recognize your webpage, on letterhead to make it easier for people to identify the correspondence, or even on goods you sell to help advertise your business – think Starbucks’ logo trademark on their cups.

The trademark also protects your business from others trying to make a profit on your good name, goods, and services. Since the trademark covers your business – if you federally register it – no other person or business can steal your brand without facing legal action.

Important Trademark Considerations

Before you create your trademark, you should take several factors into consideration. First, it takes the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) six to twelve months to examine your trademark application. Once the USPTO starts examining your trademark application, it ensures that:

  • Your trademark cannot be confused with someone else’s trademark, which means that it cannot be similar to another business’s trademark.
  • Your trademark cannot be too generic. A generic trademark could have features that mimic others’ trademarks, or could not properly describe your business.
  • Your trademark is not “only” a descriptive term.
  • Your trademark describes your services and/or goods, especially if the trademark is for a new service or good you invented.
  • Your trademark cannot use a surname.
  • Your trademark cannot use someone’s name or likeness without that person’s permission.

Because it takes the USPTO so long to review your application, it is better to retain a Houston trademark lawyer to research your trademark before filing the application, so you do not waste time with duplicates and forbidden words and images that the USPTO is going to deny.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Trademark?

While you technically do not need an attorney to file a trademark application, it is better that you do use one. Hiring a Houston trademark lawyer could save you time and money in the long run. You have a significantly higher chance of having your trademark application processed the first time when a trademark lawyer helps you complete the application.

Additionally, if you have to amend your application, a trademark attorney can advise you in amending the application so that you have a higher chance of getting the amended application approved.

Contact a Houston Trademark Lawyer

If you are ready to file a trademark, contact a Houston trademark lawyer for a consultation and for help with searching the trademark database and completing the application.  Here at Stafford Law Firm, we pride ourselves on being easily accessible and on responding to all client inquiries as soon as possible. 

Schedule your free consultation right away to discuss your business’s trademark.

Frequently Asked Questions

Once the USPTO accepts your application, your trademark is registered. It will stay registered for five years. You must renew the trademark by filing a renewal between the fifth and sixth year after the registration date. If you do not file a renewal, the USPTO cancels your registration. At that time, another company can use your trademark.

After the first renewal, you must renew your trademark every 10 years from the date you initially registered it.

Yes. You can save a lot of time and money by hiring an attorney to help file your initial application. An attorney can search the trademark database to look for similar trademarks and then advise you of which changes you should make.

An attorney also knows the trademark laws so they can ensure you complete your application properly.

Absolutely. Even if you intend on keeping your business small and in the family, you could develop a reputation that draws people from around the country or the world. If someone else uses your trademark and it is not registered, you have very little recourse, even if that person or company’s reputation is bad enough to sully yours.

Filing a trademark ensures that no one else can use your trademark or a brand new service or item you created, including a business name.

Keep in mind that filing a trademark at the state level does not give you the full protection that you receive when you file the trademark at the federal level. It is better to file it at the federal level, especially if you plan on growing your business to serve more states.

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