On The Trademark process
I want to pass my experiences along, mistakes and successes. here's my experience with trademarks. I came up with the name AMERICANSHIP® and thought it was unique enough that I wanted to protect it. I started combing the internet for advice, which was a maze of information and misinformation. Hopefully this website will one day help to straighten that out. I eventually got to the US Patent and Trademark Office website https://www.uspto.gov/ . It's a good site that even has helpful videos to explain the filing process. I learned the difference between trademarks and service marks and how the word trademark is often used for both. Simply put, a trademark is for goods like sneakers, and a service mark is for ...wait for it... a service provided like a plumber would use for his company name. You can use the symbols we've all seen - ™ or SM, even if you haven't registered with the USPTO and still have some protection under common-law rights (a lawyer can explain that at another time). But it's illegal to use the registered trademark symbol ® until after your chosen name has been approved and registered. That R with the circle cost me $500.00 and took 10 months to get approved ! Basically being registered allows me to take legal action and sue if my mark is used without permission or otherwise infringed upon in any way. I used the site data base to see if anyone had filed using the name and they hadn't, so I began the application process online. You can file with most govt. agencies online or with a paper application..but I recommend doing it online (I'll cover my experience with filing for my LLC with paper applications at another time...spoiler alert: file online). So the site is very forgiving and it lets you go back to previous steps to make corrections before submitting. This was especially helpful when filling out the "identification" section of the application which will classify your goods and/or services. You can file under several different categories...but it's $400.00 for each class ! -So i chose just one. Here's a caveat, the site allows you to leave some spaces blank to fill out after submission, BUT when you are prompted to fill them out at a later time..there may be a fee for "amending" the application. I had to pay $100.00 to fill in a blank on the app and when i called the office to question it, I was told by a helpful civil servant in a kind but firm tone that I'd be paying because it wasn't an additional charge but an amendment charge. This is where having an attorney do the filing may have helped, and it's why I'd definitely use one for a patent application because the laws are ever-changing. So I sat back and waited for approval, checking my application status often. I received notice when there was an "office -action" where examiners were going through the approval process. I had to answer an office -action to submit a specimen (not THAT kind of specimen, don't worry) of my mark in use. I called the office for clarification and they wanted a screenshot of my website or a brochure or advertising showing the AMERICANSHIP name and how it was being used by me. Then after a total of 10 months , I was registered. It may seem like a hassle but if you have something worth protecting it's necessary. And the experience alone was worth it so i can pass it on to others.