Registering a trademark can provide you and your business invaluable legal protection from others attempting to infringe on your intellectual property rights. Hiring a lawyer for the trademark registration process certainly isn't a requirement, but it can ensure that you receive the protection you deserve without wasting additional time or money.
If you're wondering whether you even need a trademark at all, the answer is almost always yes. Registering a trademark for the words or symbols that identify your business assures consumers of the source of the goods or services. That is, when your customers see your mark on your product or service, they know exactly what they're getting and from whom, and this builds customer confidence and loyalty. With a registered trademark, you receive exclusive rights to use your trademark in commerce throughout the United States.
Simply put, your trademark is integral to your brand, so it's important that you take the right steps to protect it as soon as possible. Whether or not you should hire a trademark attorney to help you depends on several factors, discussed more fully below.
Registering a trademark yourself
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provides a trademark application and instructions to walk applicants through the process on its website. In some cases, registering a trademark is straightforward and doing it by yourself probably wouldn't raise any issues. If your proposed symbol or mark is inherently unique and the class of goods or services you are registering for is clear, for example, there may not be a need to hire a trademark attorney.
That said, an important part of the trademarking process is making sure that your mark or symbol hasn't already been registered and isn't too similar to an existing mark, which may require an extensive search through currently registered marks. You must also be sure to apply for trademark registration within the appropriate class or classes of goods to make sure your mark receives the protection you desire. There are 34 classes for goods and 11 for services, which leaves much room for error.
For instance, if you want to sell t-shirts and mugs that feature your mark, you should apply for registration in two separate categories—"Clothing" for t-shirts and "Household Utensils" for mugs. A denied application and reapplication can cost you valuable time and money in nonrefundable fees, so this is something to keep in mind as you decide whether hiring a trademark lawyer makes sense in your situation.
Registering a trademark through an attorney
A trademark attorney offers several advantages over going it alone, all related to the lawyer's trademark experience and expertise. While the registration process doesn't appear complicated, you may benefit from having a knowledgeable lawyer by your side to help you navigate through the registration.
A trademark attorney can help you do the following:
- Search for similar trademarks that could prevent yours from being registered or used in commerce.
- Interpret the results of such findings and advise you on how to proceed.
- Evaluate the strength of your proposed mark and help you develop a strong mark.
- Explain your rights concerning the registered mark and how to pursue infringement claims.
- Prepare and file the trademark application and follow it throughout the process should it require amendment.
- Follow up on the process, adhere to deadlines, check status, and respond to any further inquiries regarding the application.
Once the trademark is registered, an attorney can also help you enforce your intellectual property rights in the trademark by monitoring and pursuing claims related to potential infringement. Again, these are all actions you may choose to do yourself, but if you would like to have an experienced professional assist you, hiring a trademark attorney is the way to go.
Overall, your trademark is how people will recognize your business, and a trademark lawyer can help make sure you are well protected. Using an attorney can make the process go more smoothly and may even save you time and money in the long run, so it's an investment well worth considering.