If you have developed a really cool business name or want to protect the term by which you refer to your product, you should consider trademarking it. I give the basics of trademarks in the first page of this article. This article gives insight into the process and introduces The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to officially register your trademark.
Before you become all exciting about registering a trademark, remember that the name, slogan or logo that you want to claim as your own can't be generic. For example, you can't trademark the term 'jewelry' or a description of your product such as 'beautiful' jewelry because the USPTO won't register a trademark for descriptions or characteristics of your product.
To give you an example of what could be trademarked look to Tiffany featured designer Elsa Peretti. One of her trademarked jewelry designs is Diamonds by the Yard®. None of the words in the phrase diamonds by the yard is all that special or unique, but combined together they form a unique phrase - thus the trademark.
Criteria for Trademaking
Breaking trademarking down to its simplest form, there are two basic criteria for obtaining a trademark:
- 1. Make sure that whatever you want to trademark is not part of common speech or already in use. For example, cola instead of Coke® or hamburger rather than Whooper®.
- 2. Do a search at the USPTO to make sure your name, slogan or logo has not yet been trademarked.
Using an Attorney for Trademarking or Doing it Yourself
Do an internet search using the key phrase "trademark service". You will find many websites offering various deals for helping with your trademarking needs - most for a very reasonable fee.
The USPTO has informational page on its website detailing the advantages of using a private attorney, What a Private Attorney Could Do to Help Avoid Potential Pitfalls. I agree with the points made by the article. But, I'm the type of business owner who vacillates back and forth between doing certain business tasks and contracting them out (and of course there are some tasks that I'm smart enough to know that I could never do myself and always contract them out).
I had originally intended to hire an attorney to take care of this for me. However, I figured I might as well give it a whirl myself. The worst that could happen is that I waste of couple of hours trying to navigate the morass of a government website, give up in defeat and end up hiring an attorney anyway. Well, with those positive words, let's move onto the basic search for others already using your trademark!
Searching For Others Using the Trademark
Crank up your favorite internet search engine and simply do a search for whatever name or phrase you want to use (this method is not useful for a logo - you'll have to go straight to the USPTO for that research). If you can't find it at search engines such as Google, Bing or Yahoo, you probably are in luck. Although, this is not a certainty until you do your USPTO search.
If at this point you still don't have a solid idea for a name or slogan (you may want to read this great article, 50 Examples of Catchy and Creative Slogans), write down a list of descriptive words for your type of art, craft or overall business theme and try stringing them together to make a fantastic name or phrase. For example, when Waterpik® was decided upon - can you envision the list of words that company had on their list?
You might think about writing each word on a note card, throwing them up into the air and see how they end up randomly ordering themselves. Just don't end up trying to trademark words straight out of a dictionary or encyclopedia, they will be too common to be eligible for trademarking.
Also recommended is that your name or phrase is pleasing to the ear. Say it aloud to yourself and make sure it is easy to pronounce and doesn't inadvertently bring to mind unfortunate associations.
The next article in this series walks you through getting a trademark.