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How to Protect Your Trademark

From choosing a strong trademark to seeking federal registration and beyond, protecting your trademark requires ongoing effort and attention. We’ve broken down the how-tos of the trademark protection process to help guide you throughout your trademark journey.

Steps for Protecting Your Trademark

  1. Choose a Strong Trademark
  2. Conduct a Clearance Search
  3. Grab Domain & Social Media
  4. Register Your Trademark
  5. Monitor for Infringement
  6. Maintain Your Trademark
green search light at the top of a smartphone shines to reveals TM inside a circle

1. Choose a Strong Trademark

Choosing a strong trademark is one of the best things you can do to protect your brand. A strong mark not only helps your company stand out, but it adds muscle to your trademark rights.

Trademark strength is split into five levels. Moving from strongest to weakest, these include: fanciful, arbitrary, suggestive, descriptive, and generic.

Strong trademarks are better protected than their weaker counterparts because of their distinctiveness. The more creative and distinct your trademark is, the better it acts as a “source identifier” for your goods/services—and the easier it is to claim as yours.

If a trademark is too weak to act as an identifier (looking at you generic marks), it cannot be registered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

When you use Northwest’s Trademark Service, we assess the strength of your trademark and provide feedback if we discover it is lacking.

3. Grab Domain Name & Social Media Handles

When protecting your trademark, it’s important to make sure it can be protected across online platforms. This especially matters for those whose trademark and business name are one and the same. When consumers search for your brand online, you want them to find your business, not someone else’s.

  • Social Media
    Run through the social media platforms you use (and even the ones you don’t) to see if your trademark is available as a handle. If it is, yay! Snatch it up. If it’s not, boo. Consider whether there’s a suitable alternative or if you need to return to the trademark drawing board.
  • Website Domain
    Having a domain that matches your business name is a valuable brand asset. (In certain circumstances, you can even trademark your domain.) If you’re trademarking a catchphrase or tagline, these can be valuable domains, too. Check to see if your trademark is available as a domain and consider buying it right away if it’s up for grabs. If it’s not, brainstorm different domain options or change up your mark.

4. Register Your Trademark

After confirming that your trademark is unique within its industry and strong, the next layer of protection is to seek federal trademark registration. By registering your mark with the USPTO, you receive the broadest national trademark protections available.

So, what rights and protections do you earn with federal registration that you don’t otherwise qualify for?

  • Use of ® symbol
  • Ability to sue for trademark infringement in federal court
  • Protection and enforcement abilities in all 50 states
  • Customs and border enforcement

The federal registration process generally takes at least 12 months to complete, but can take longer. Filing costs a minimum of $250 or $350, depending on the type of trademark application you use.

Throughout the registration process, pay careful attention to correspondence from the USPTO and any new deadlines that come up. It is common for applications to receive office actions, and failing to respond can lead to your trademark application being abandoned.

5. Monitor for Infringement

Once your trademark is registered, protection takes the form of monitoring for infringement and enforcing your trademark rights.

Trademark monitoring is similar in scope to a clearance search, involving digging through the same kinds of sites and databases. But where a clearance search is typically a one-time thing, trademark monitoring is most successful if done regularly throughout the life of your trademark.

You can monitor your trademark yourself or you can hire a trademark monitoring service, which uses software to do this legwork for you.

What if I discover trademark infringement?

If and when trademark monitoring reveals infringement, there are a few routes you can take to protect your mark. Suitable options will depend on circumstances like the extent of infringement and when it was discovered. It may be helpful to talk to a trademark attorney about your options.

Some infringement remedies include:

When you use our Trademark Service, you can hire Law on Call’s attorneys to draft and send an infringement-related cease and desist letter.

6. Maintain Your Trademark

Maintaining your trademark is one final piece of the protection puzzle. In order for a federally registered trademark to stay registered and hold on to its protections, it must be regularly renewed.

The federal trademark renewal process breaks down like this:

Ready to protect your brand?