How Do I Register My Trademark, and What is the Process?
A trademark is registered by filing an application with either the state in which the trademark is used, or with the federal U.S. Government.
In Michigan, the process for applying for a state trademark registration is quite straightforward. The registration lasts for 10 years, and then must be renewed in order to keep it valid.
A federal trademark registration is applied for with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. An application can be filed for a trademark that is actually being used, or for a trademark that you have a legitimate and bona fide intent to begin using.
Once the application is filed, then you will have to wait about 3-6 months for a trademark examiner (called an “examining attorney”) to review your application.
The examining attorney will review the application to make sure that it meets all of the requirements, and he or she will issue a rejection (called an “office action”) if there are problems with the application. Some rejections can be very minor in nature and easily overcome, and others are very difficult or even impossible to overcome.
Some of the things that the examining attorney is looking for include:
- making sure that the trademark does not create a likelihood of confusion with anyone else’s federal trademark registration;
- making sure that the trademark is distinctive, and not merely descriptive;
- making sure that the trademark does not include any descriptive terms (and if it does, then requiring the applicant to disclaim trademark rights to that term when not used in the applicant’s specific trademark);
- making sure that the trademark does not include any scandalous or immoral subject matter;
- making sure that the specimen of use filed by the applicant is suitable and demonstrates use of the trademark in commerce; and
- making sure that the description of the goods or services does not include any errors or inaccurate information
If the trademark application is rejected, then the applicant will be given 6 months to file a response. An additional office action will be sent if the examining attorney disagrees with the applicant’s response or if there are still outstanding issues with the application.
If all issues have been resolved, then the application will be allowed. The application will then be published to the public in the Official Gazette. The public will then be given a 30-day period to oppose your application if they believe that they will be harmed by your trademark registration.
If no one opposes your trademark application and it was filed based on your actual use of the trademark (rather than your intent to use it in the future), then your trademark will be registered shortly after the 30-day period has ended. You will then be mailed a Certificate of Registration.
If no one opposes your trademark application and it was filed based on your intent to use the trademark in the future, you will then be given 6 months to file a Statement of Use to demonstrate that you have actually started using the trademark. You can extend that 6-month due date up to five times, effectively giving yourself 3 years to start using the trademark once the application has been allowed.
The entire application process can be as short as 6-9 months, or last 4 years or longer if you need that time to begin using the trademark.
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