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Can I File a Trademark as a Sole Proprietor?

Register a Trademark

Q: I’d like to use your registered agent services to register a trademark without an LLC. Is that possible?

Thank you to a customer from New York for that great question! As a sole proprietor, you can register a trademark without an LLC. However, you may not be able to use a registered agent service or the address associated with it for that filing. Read on for a full explanation:

Should I get a trademark as a sole proprietor?

If you get a trademark as a sole proprietor, you’ll have to use your personal name on your trademark application. There are two primary reasons to consider filing a trademark without starting a business first:

  • Savings: By filing a trademark without forming any sort of business structure in advance, you will obviously save on the costs of starting a business. These costs can include state registration fees, business licensing fees, registered agent service and more.
  • Speed: If you have reason to believe that you might lose out on federal trademark registration if you take the time to form a business first, it may seem expedient to file under your own name.

Though these are valid concerns, you may find that down the road the protections of an LLC or corporation outweigh the money and time you might have saved in the short term.

How much does it cost to get a trademark?

The cost to register a single-class trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office is $250 if you use the TEAS Plus application or $350 with the TEAS Standard application.

What’s the downside of applying for a trademark without an LLC?

Once your submit your trademark application, the name and address you provided becomes part of the public record. The USPTO displays applicants’ mailing addresses wherever the trademark information appears in its database, including the Trademark System for Document Retrieval.

Why should I form an LLC to register a trademark?

While you don’t have to form an LLC to register a trademark, having an LLC can help you maintain privacy when registering a trademark. This is because—unlike sole proprietorships—LLCs are required to have a registered agent, and if you use a registered agent service like Northwest, you can list your registered agent’s address instead of your own. Plus, with an LLC you can use the name of your business in your trademark application instead of your personal name.

Do I need to provide a domicile address?

Yes. The “owner’s domicile address” (your home address if you’re filing as a sole proprietor) must be provided in your trademark application. However, if you also provide a mailing address, your mailing address will be made public and your domicile address will be kept off of the public record.

Does an LLC help protect my other contact information?

An LLC doesn’t automatically provide privacy protections. But some professional registered agent companies offer phone service along with LLC formation, giving you a dedicated line that you can use to help keep your private phone number off the public record. (Though you aren’t required to include a phone number with your application.) As for email protection, if you create a new email account solely for business communication, you can spare your personal accounts from being listed publicly.

Can I protect information on a trademark filing with a corporation instead?

Corporations are also required to have a registered agent, and if you use a professional registered agent service you may be able to use your registered agent’s address for official trademark filings. However, corporations tend to be more complicated to form and maintain, so many business owners prefer to register their companies as LLCs because of the ease of forming one.

Can I transfer a trademark in my name to a business?

If you’ve already filed a trademark in your own name, and now want to transfer it to an LLC you own (or to any other entity—such as in a sale), you can accomplish that with a trademark assignment filing. That information can be updated in the USPTO’s Electronic Trademark Assignment System or by submitting Form PTO-1594 to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Transfers cost $40 for the first trademark, and $25 for subsequent filings.

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