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Starting or expanding a business can be thrilling, but understanding trademarking is a crucial step to avoid headaches down the road. Let’s dive into what trademarking is, how to check for existing trademarks, what it costs, and how long it takes. Plus, I’ll share some real-life stories from my clients to show you why trademarking is so important. Please note, we are not trademark attorneys. The information we are sharing is our own experience with our clients as brand and website designers.

What is Trademarking?

Think of a trademark as your business’s unique signature. It’s a special symbol, word, or phrase that legally represents your company or product. When you trademark something, you’re basically staking a claim to that name or design, ensuring that no one else in your industry can use it. This is super important because it helps protect your brand identity. Imagine working hard to build a recognizable brand, only to find someone else using a similar name or logo. It could confuse your customers and hurt your business. Trademarking helps prevent this by giving you the exclusive rights to use your trademarked elements.

How to Check Existing Trademarks

Before you get too attached to a business name, product name, or any branding element, make sure it’s not already taken. Here’s a little tip: even if you have an LLC and have registered your business name, you could still infringe on someone else’s trademark. The process for checking existing trademarks is simple and can save you a lot of trouble later on.

  • Go to the USPTO Website: The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has a handy tool called the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). You can find it HERE.
  • Conduct a Search: Enter the name or phrase you’re considering in the search bar. TESS will show you if anyone else has already trademarked it. Make sure to check variations and similar names too.
  • Review the Results: If your search shows that someone else has already trademarked the name in your industry, you’ll need to come up with a different one. If it’s clear, you can move forward with more confidence.

This tool is super helpful to avoid potential legal issues down the road. It’s better to spend a few minutes now than to face a rebranding nightmare later!

Costs and Duration

Trademarking your business name or product is a smart investment. It’s not just about legal protection; it’s also about the peace of mind knowing your brand is secure. Here’s what you need to know about the costs and timeline:

  • Filing Fees: The costs for filing a trademark range from $225 to $600 per class of goods or services. This fee can vary depending on the specifics of your application.
  • Attorney Fees: While you can file a trademark yourself, many people choose to hire an attorney to help with the process. Attorney fees can vary widely but are generally worth the investment to ensure everything is done correctly.
  • Timeline: The entire process typically takes between 8 to 12 months. This includes time for the USPTO to review your application, allow for any objections or oppositions, and finally approve your trademark.
  • Renewal: Once registered, trademarks need to be renewed every 10 years to keep them active. This is a relatively straightforward process but crucial to maintaining your trademark rights.

Investing in a trademark can seem daunting, but it’s a crucial step to protect the brand you’re building.

Real-Life Scenarios

Scenario 1: Online Course Branding

A few years ago, one of our clients wanted to launch an online course. We spent weeks designing their course, integrating this into the website, and made sure everything worked perfectly. A few weeks after launching, the client received a cease-and-desist letter. Another company in the same industry had trademarked a similar course name. In result, we had to work with our client to rebrand the entire course—name, logo, website, everything. Thankfully, the company was understanding and didn’t pursue any legal action towards our client.

Scenario 2: Postponed Product Launch

Another client who sells organic goods (let’s just say in the food industry) came to us for branding and a website design. After finalizing the entire project, the client decided to postpone the launch to perfect their product further. In the meantime, another company launched a product with the same name and trademarked it. Even though they did this after her because she didn’t have a trademark, there was no legal ground to stand on, and our client had to start from scratch with a new name and rebrand everything, which delayed their launch and added extra costs.

Scenario 3: Brand Mark Infringement

One long-term client of ours had been selling home goods for a year and wanted to trademark her brand as she expanded. We had created a unique brand mark that combined the first letters of her business name. Shortly into the process, a major apparel brand (think along the lines of Abercrombie) claimed that her brand mark infringed on their trademark. Although her business name was completely different, the stylized mark was too similar, so we had to redesign the brand mark and update all packaging materials: shipping boxes, product boxes, labels, etc. The opposing company allowed her to sell through her existing inventory, giving us time to transition to the new branding. This experience was a real eye-opener on the complexities of trademark law.

Final Thoughts

Navigating the world of trademarks can be tricky, but it’s crucial for protecting your business. By taking the time to understand the process and checking for existing trademarks, you can save yourself a lot of stress and expense. So, before you dive into launching your business, product, or course, make sure you’ve got your trademark bases covered!

For more business insights, branding tips, and website design recommendations, feel free to follow along on social media. We like to hang out on Instagram and Pinterest. 🙂

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*This post may contain affiliate links, which provides us with a small commission, at no cost to you, if you complete a purchase through one of our links. We only recommend products that we use ourselves and that we genuinely recommend to other business owners. The small commission that we do earn allows us to continue creating free, valuable content and resources for our audience.

About Savannah and Dillon

As self-taught designers and entrepreneurs, we have had the privilege of accompanying countless business owners, investing our time in assisting businesses to drive meaningful impact and foster thriving communities. With a genuine passion for sustainable design, we specialize in crafting one-of-a-kind brand identities, customized website designs, and captivating visuals that leave a lasting impression and inspire purposeful connections.

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