How to Trademark And Copyright Your Business Name

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Registering your business trademark is a pretty straightforward matter. You go online - https://www.uspto.gov – fill out an application form, submit the necessary documents, and in less than 90 minutes, your application will go through submission and registration. 

The process to investigate the application and ensure that it fulfils all the necessary criteria can take several months – 12 to 13 months, sometimes – but apart from this waiting period, everything else is pretty 1-2-3. Registering for copyright goes the same way.

But that’s just simplifying the matter.

Because you see, it’s not just the registration of the trademark or the copyright that confuses a lot of business owners. It’s understanding the whole concept, including trademark monitoring, figuring out if they really need the protection in the first place, and trying to untangle the difference between trademarks and copyrights.

Which one is more important, and more relevant? If you get one and not the other, what does that affect? If you get both, does it truly cover all the bases, or are you still exposed?

Read on to find out.

Trademark vs. copyright

Trademarks and copyrights are two unique tools that protect intellectual properties. Though a lot of protections these tools offer overlap, they are not mutually exclusive. Getting one does not protect you from infringements against the other.

How to Trademark And Copyright Your Business Name_

Therefore, experts recommend getting both if you are looking to give your business the most comprehensive legal protection available.

Trademark:

Your business name is your trademark.

An example would be Nike. Its trademark is its name (word), its slogan (Just Do It - phrase), and its logo (design).

These trademark protections allow Nike to sell its footwear and other products bearing its name, logo, and slogan, and no other business is allowed to use the same name, design, or slogan as its own

what is Trademark

Copyright:

Copyrights, in effect, declare who is the original creator of an intellectually created work. This work could be a book, a design, software, a movie, song, music, photograph, painting, you name it.

When you make a business logo, for example, and register your copyrights for it, you tell the world that you are its original owner and no other person can claim its ownership or use this work or reproduce it or earn from it in any way.

So, which one do you need?

Each of these intellectual property protection tools needs to work in unison to give you the full protection of the law. Only when you have both these protections in place can you fully protect your business name, brand, logo, tagline, designs, and products. 

Do I NEED to register my trademark & copyright?

Registering trademarks and copyrights are choices and not legal requirements. If you choose to run and market your business without any trademark registrations, you are allowed to do so under the law. However, this choice has its consequences. 

  • Some individuals or organisations can use your business name as their own and decide to sell similar products and services.
  • Someone can misuse your business name and harm your reputation or market share.
  • Another business using your name can create confusion in customers’ minds and use it to poach your clients.
  • You are exposed to all kinds of lawsuits when you have no trademark protection. Someone can claim they came up with your brand name first and make you forfeit your claim to it.
  • Copyright protection of your logo ensures no other person or entity can use your logo design for any purpose without your permission. You can consider creating a logo animation to make it outstanding.

These are just a few of the examples of the many legal pitfalls you might be exposed to if you decide not to protect your trademark or register your copyright. But don’t let fear cloud your judgement. Look at all the immense benefits you get when you do register for a trademark/copyright. 

Advantages of registering your business name

 Some of the many benefits of trademarking your business name include: 

  • You can protect your brand reputation by ensuring no one can misuse your business name or any of its visual representation.
  • You protect your market share and not let anyone confuse your customers by using similar names or designs.
  • Trademark protection is forever – meaning, a trademark never expires. So, you can continue doing your business under your trademarked name for as long as you want.
  • If you want to expand to other cities, states, countries, a registered trademark may help you expand its legal protection in other geographical areas as well.
  • You can stop other people, entities, and organisations from using your trademark. The law will recognize your greater claim to it.
  • Branding becomes easy and more consistent when you have a registered trademark to identify all your goods and products.
  • You get the trustworthy ™, ®, © symbols attached to your brand/business name. These symbols inspire trust in consumers and establish you as an authority in the field.

Looking at these lists of pros and cons, it makes sense to register your company trademark and file for copyrights, even if it is not legally required. 

Advantages of registering your business name

How to trademark and copyright your business name & logo?

Trademark registrations are handled by the USPTO – the United States Patent and Trademark Office – while copyright registrations are taken care of by the U.S Copyrights Office. The procedures are slightly different with different documentation requirements, so we’ll discuss each tool separately.

You can learn more about how to register for a trademark outside of America with TradeMark Registration.

Trademark registration process

1. The first step to trademarking your business name involves research. Use the USPTO tool, Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS), to find out if anyone is already using that name, design, or phrase.

2. If they are not, proceed to the next step, otherwise brainstorm with your team again to come up with a new brand name and design.

3. If you are in the clear with TESS, open an initial application TEAS form. You’ll need to go through the index a bit to find the right application form to file under. If you choose the wrong form, it will not only lead to eventual delay but may also end up causing your application to be outright rejected. 

4. When you find the right form, fill out your details and submit the necessary documents. If you are trademarking your logo, for example, add a drawing of the mark. If not, just write your business name or tagline – whichever you are registering.

5. If you are including a mark, you will need to add a thorough description of it and also mention the date it was first used in the business/marketing.

6. Add a list of goods and services you intend to sell/offer under your trademark.

7.  You will also need to choose a filing base to tell the Office why you are allowed to federally protect your trademark. The two filing bases include: intent to use and use in commerce. The former applies to a new trademark that has yet to be used for a commercial purpose while the latter protects older trademarks that are already being used by the business for operations and marketing.

8. Once you complete the application, you’ll need to pay the relevant fee, which starts at $250 per class of goods and/or services. Here is the detailed trademark fee structure published by the Trademark Office website.

9. When you hit Submit, the application goes to the vetting and approval process, which can take anything from 12 to 18 months. However, you can reduce this time by opting for online registration and ensuring all your documents are in order and every information you have shared is correct and updated.

10. After your application goes through, you will receive a filing receipt. Use this number to check your application status on Trademark Status and Document Retrieval System (TSDR).

Copyright registration process

1. Visit the U.S Copyright Office website: https://copyright.gov/

2. Open the Registration Portal and log in to the Electronic Copyright Office (eCO) Registration System.

3. Use this system to submit an online application for your copyright claim.

4. You can also submit your application in the paper format but check with the Copyrights Office regarding office timings due to the pandemic adjustments.

5. While the average processing time for all claims is 3-4 months, if you e-file your claim, your application may be processed quickly. However, it can even take as long as 24 months, e-filing or not.

6. The processing time is immaterial in the case of receiving the copyright. The U.S Copyright Office considers your copyright effective on the day they receive your application, regardless of how long the actual process of approval and registration takes.

7. The application form asks for your name and other details. You will also be asked to submit copies of your published/unpublished work. Make sure to provide all the necessary documents and files needed in the correct format to speed up your approval process.

8. If you are filing for collections of works, choose the Group Registration forms.

9. You will also need to submit a filing fee of $45 if it’s a single work by a single author. Otherwise, the fee structure varies. Look at the latest rates here.

10. You can pay the fee via Debit Card, Credit Card, or even send a check in the mail. Again, the online payment will mean a quicker process compared to mailing the check.

After you submit your application along with all the supplementary documents, it’s nothing but waiting and checking your application status every few months. 

Do I need an attorney?

While hiring an attorney to file your trademark or copyright is not legally required, an expert professional taking care of these important filings for you is an ideal situation. An attorney cannot only take care of this whole thing for you but make it much simpler to understand and follow through.

Do I need an attorney

Your attorney will also come in highly useful if your trademark or copyright application is contested and it looks like you’ll have to go to court to settle the matter. An attorney proficient in copyright and trademark law will help you figure out how to navigate that and which is the right course of action for a favourable outcome.

However, it is important to note that if it comes to a lawsuit, the USPTO will give you a licensed attorney so your side can be represented. So, even if you don’t have an attorney, one will be provided if the need arises. 

Conclusion: how to trademark and copyright your business name

Registering your business trademark and copyright protects your commercial and creative interests. It makes your identity official, distinguishes you from your competitors, and helps your customers/audience identify you and recognize you in the market. It also protects your business name from being copied and illegally used by other commercial entities.

But protecting your business identity does not stop at registering your business name; you also have to register your business logo – the visual representation of your brand. You also have to figure out if trademarking your business name is enough or do you need copyright protection too. Then there’s the whole matter of submitting your application and waiting for approval, which can take several months to process.

Knowing the right procedure and accurately moving from one stage to the next can be a huge help, and that’s what we have tried to do through this guide. For more details and technicalities involved in these processes, the official websites are a treasure trove. Do take a look if need be.

About the author 

Peter Keszegh

Most people write this part in the third person but I won't. You're at the right place if you want to start or grow your online business. When I'm not busy scaling up my own or other people' businesses, you'll find me trying out new things and discovering new places. Connect with me on Facebook, just let me know how I can help.

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