In today’s ultra-competitive marketplace, brand building is mission critical to a small business’s success. Many burgeoning enterprise’s identity is its name. Company’s such as Apple, Lego and Kraft have all had incredible success in a range of different industries by cultivating brand names that consumers trust and value. However, before they get their brands off the ground, founders need to protect their interests by registering trademarks for their business and products.

Create a name

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While not the most difficult aspect of launching a new small business, creating a brand name is no easy task. In order to stand out in the modern commercial arena, founders need to create a name for their companies that are memorable, descriptive and unique. An awkward, forgettable or generic name can sink even the most promising emerging brand. Additionally, owners need to make sure their brilliant business monikers aren’t already in use by another firm. Thankfully, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has made it easy for entrepreneurs to find out if their potential brand name is available via their Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS).

Filing for a trademark

After creating a brand name and certifying its availability, owners then need to apply for a trademark through the USPTO. When filing online, the process takes roughly 90 minutes and the USPTO will typically respond to trademark requests within six months. The fee to file a trademark for a class of products and services start at $225. Since the Patent and Trademark Office is rather stringent about the specifics of the application, founders may want to use the $275 TEAS Reduced Fee form. It allows filers to make amendments to their application during the review period. To meet the USPTO’s filing requirements, entrepreneurs’ trademark applications must include payment, a description and classification of the product or service being trademarked and an email address.

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Consulting with a lawyer

Considering the USTPO’s exacting application standards and the fees that are required to a contest a rejection, founders may want to consult with a lawyer before registering for a trademark. An experienced legal professional can help entrepreneurs understand their trademarking needs and handle all the attendant paperwork. For instance, a business that sells energy drinks and t-shirts will need to file trademark applications in both the apparel and food classes. Given how important trademarks are to a small business, it pays to be safe rather than sorry.


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This article was written by Mario McKellop for CBS Small Business Pulse