Trademarks are different from patents and copyrights. Patents and copyrights expire without renewal. Trademarks can last indefinitely while they are being used in business identification and can be renewed every five years. It is important to research the need for trademark protection before filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO. Sometimes symbols cannot be patented because of infringement, but there are other situations that can cause a denied application.
One of the most basic reasons for denial is filing the wrong form. The two forms are the TEAS and the TEAS Plus. The TEAS Plus is a qualified mark and the fee for filing is less than the standard TEAS. Always make sure that the TEAS Plus is not being used in error. Approvals from this form are also not as comprehensive as the standard trademark registration.
Trademarking: Common Issues
One of the first problems that can arise is the generic nature of the trademark. Actual objects cannot be registered as a trademark. The actual “trade” mark is anything applied to a generic image that makes it distinctive. Augmenting a preexisting image is a common method of trademark. Many companies use the company name in a logo. Unless another company of the same name has registered the trademark, these marks are generally approved.
Determining the degree of similarity to an existing trademark is a gray area for the final approval. Normally a distinguishing mark can create enough uniqueness, but that is not always the case. Color and font style can be a part of mark protection if the company name is included. It is important to research the trademark for acceptability beforehand. Always be prepared for the USPTO to have a similar trademark on file.
Trademarks that include the image of a person also require authorization from the owner of the image. If the individual is still living, then the individual makes the authorization. If they are deceased, the individual owning the intellectual property rights is required to authorize. This restriction also includes partial images if the identity of the individual is easily determined.
One of the most important obstacles to avoid is attempting to file the trademark without legal counsel. The TEAS application is filed online, but the information is critical. It is both time and cost efficient to retain an experienced intellectual property attorney to help establish the trademark and then protect the mark from infringement after registration.