Q: I recently chose a name and logo for my business, but I’m worried about infringement. How can I safeguard against copycats?
A: Technically, by using the name and logo, you have established common law rights to the marks. But to ensure the fullest protection, you should register a trademark of both.
A trademark is a name, symbol, phrase, design, slogan or combination of these items used to distinguish your product or service from others.
If you plan to conduct business locally only, you can get a state registration through your secretary of state, but obtaining a federal trademark will give you the privilege of using the mark nationwide.
The general trademark procedure begins with a name search. “You would want to conduct a search for any exact or similar names to make sure that no one is using the name before you attempt to register it,” says Latrese Fuller, senior customer service representative for the Trademark Research Corp. in New York.
You can conduct the search yourself by looking through the records of your state office and trademark depository libraries. For a fee, you can solicit private agencies to conduct a search for you. On average, a nationwide search takes as long as four business days and can cost you up to $350.
Filing for federal registration of a trademark requires an application, drawing of the mark, and a fee of $245 per class (i.e., for each individual product/service used in connection with the mark).
For more information about the trademark process and an application, contact the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, 2900 Crystal Dr., Arlington, VA 22202-3515; 703-308-9000.