The Common Law

Nuts and bolts of trademark registration

How does it help my business if I register a trademark? How do I register a trademark? Is it a big hassle?

Your business is growing, and you are ready to start taking steps toward protecting its success in the future. Registering a trademark that your business is already using is a positive step in that direction.

Federal registration of a trademark is not as complicated as you might think. Go to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website (www.uspto.gov), and fill out an application form for trademark registration. Review the application for completeness (incompleteness is a big reason many applications are delayed or rejected), and file it over the Internet using the Trademark Electronic Application System (www.uspto.gov/teas/index.html). You can also respond to USPTO actions and file notices of change of address and many other documents through TEAS. You can monitor the status of your application through the Trademark Applications and Registrations Retrieval database (tarr.uspto.gov).

If you dislike online forms, you can call the Trademark Assistance Center (800/786-9199) to request a paper form. The fee for an application for trademark registration varies depending on whether it's an electronic application ($325) or a paper filing ($375). The trademark-registration process can take months or years (remember, we are dealing with the federal government bureaucracy here), but the exact length of the trademark-registration process is difficult to predict due to numerous factors that are looked at during the review of an application.

There are several benefits to getting a federal trademark registration. First, the trademark owner will have evidence of ownership of the trademark, which will be considered to have put others nationwide on constructive notice of the trademark owner's claims. Further, trademark registration may also be used to prevent importation of infringing foreign goods and as a basis for obtaining registration of the trademark in foreign countries.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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