Trademark Tips for Small Business Owners

Welcome back to Business & Budgets! This has been a hot topic for my audience lately and I figured I would drop a blog to answer everybody at once. If you prefer to watch the live replay, just click here.


What is a trademark?

A trademark is a word, phase, symbol or design that distinguishes your goods from that of another company or party. A service mark is the same thing though it applies to services instead of goods. It serves as protection for you and your brand in the event that a company with the same name appears in your industry. As the owner of the trademark you can reach out to them and ask them to stop using your name. You can trademark on the state or federal level. While it is cheaper to trademark on the state level you aren't offer protection outside of the state, which is definitely a big deal in the growing world of e-commerce.

A trademark lasts for a lifetime, so though it is expensive it is definitely worth the money. You are suppose to keep it active by paying your trademark fees to the USPTO every five years. A common law trademark is a method of protecting your word, phrase, symbol or design before you register it with the state. This basically means you were the first in commerce with your trademark and you should use the letters "TM" so that people know you are operating as a common law trademark. This generally will discourage others from attempting to use your brand name. Be present in as many places as possible, make it clear what your brand is. Be sure to keep an eye out for companies who are attempting to use your name. Confront them as early as possible to avoid loss of income.

The application generally takes 6-12 months to be approved. During the first stage the USPTO office is confirming that your mark has not been claimed by anyone else. Once this process is done (generally 1-3 months after application) you get your first phase of approval. Next, your application is sent over to an attorney to confirm that you have filed the mark accurately. They will make sure that your products match your mark and contact you if your description is inaccurate or if they have further questions. Once the attorney gives your application a green light, it is sent off to be published then given final approval.

There are different classes for trademarks, a total of 45 to be exact. If you would like to protect your brand in more than one class, you will be required to pay more than one trademark fee. Most brands typically trademark their apparel merchandise by filing Class 25 which covers most clothing, footwear and headgear. Classes cover everything from paint (Class 2), Jewelry (Class 14), Education services (Class 41), Legal Services (Class 45) and more.

How do you trademark?

First, you need to confirm that someone else doesn't already own the trademark by conducting a trademark search on the USPTO website. Once you know that your mark is available you can proceed with the application. There are three options for how you should proceed with the application.:

  • You can file independently. It is a very detailed process and many people are denied for making a mistake or two. But, if you are intelligent and confident, go for it!

  • You can hire a trademark attorney to file for you.

  • You can hire The Sonshine Enterprise! Click here to sign-up for your trademark filing service now.

Why should you trademark?

Trademarking can protect your brand, your reputation and your profits. If you do not trademark your brand, someone else can. But, even if nobody takes the steps to officially register it, they still can operate their business under your name. Imagine if another Sonshine Enterprise came along stating they were a business consultant. What if people thought they were me and purchased their services. What if even worse, they sucked! Not only did I lose money to a fake Sonshine in this example, but my reputation could also be in jeopardy. Without a registered trademark I wouldn't be able to really sue and without a strong common law trademark I would have no room to do anything.

Additional Trademark Tips

Trademarks are not the same as patents or copyrights. Copyrights are for creative, individual pieces such as paintings, songs, books, architecture, poetry and more. So though a copyright is extremely cheaper, it doesn't give complete coverage to a brand like a trademark does. Copyrights protect your creative piece throughout your lifetime, plus seventy years.