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Registering trademarks and copyrights provides additional protection for your business’s intellectual property. You can hire a lawyer to research and register trademarks and to register copyrights, or you can tackle the process yourself.
Here's a brief overview of trademarks and copyrights and how to register them.
A trademark is a word, a phrase, a design, or a symbol (or a combination of these items) used to identify the source of a product or service from other parties who may provide the same products or services. A trademark can also be used to protect those items when they are used to identify a specific product or process. (For example, the word "Macintosh" is a name used to identify certain computers made by Apple; Macintosh is a registered trademark of Apple.)
You can get a weak form of trademark protection in your local area just by using your mark in your business, or by registering it with your state. To get stronger, nationwide protection, you can register your mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). A trademark lawyer can help you research trademarks and prepare an application that has a good chance of success in the registration process. If you decide to handle the application yourself, be sure to carefully read through the educational materials on the USPTO website.
Here’s how the registration process works. Before attempting to register a trademark, you should conduct a trademark search to find out if the trademark (or a confusingly similar one) is registered to someone else. If someone else has already registered your trademark for similar goods or services, your application will be denied and you will not get your filing fee back. You can search trademarks on the USPTO website.
Next, you will file the following with the USPTO:
Your application is then reviewed, and you may receive a letter from the USPTO (known as an Office Action) describing problems with your application or seeking more information. You must respond to an Office Action by the deadline specified in the letter. If you are granted a trademark, you can use the "registered" symbol ( ® ) beside your trademark. (While your application is under review you can use the "trademark" symbol ( ™ ).
Keep in mind that a trademark may not be granted if the mark is considered to be generic or infringes upon another trademark. The more unique and distinctive your mark, the more likely your application will be approved.
For more information about trademarks, and to apply for a trademark online, visit the USPTO at www.uspto.gov .
Copyright is automatically granted when a work is created. You’re not required to register your copyrights with the U.S. Copyright office, but registering has several important advantages:
The exact procedures for registering a copyright vary depending on the type of work you are registering. However, all copyright registrations require three things:
Filing an application online through the U.S. Copyright Office’s Electronic Copyright Office, or eCO, offers several advantages over mail registration:
Further information about copyright registration is available at the U.S. Copyright office website, http://www.copyright.gov.