Trademark Timeline: When Should I Apply For A Trademark?

Trademark indicates ownership, which is why it can be argued that trademarks date back as far as 5,000 B.C.

Paintings in the South of France were used to dictate ownership, stone seals were used in the Middle East as far back as 3,500 B.C. And many different ancient cultures used markings and stamps to indicate who made certain materials.

Further down the trademark timeline, in 1790, a Vermont man was granted the first United States patent for an improvement he discovered in the making of potash. Potash was a substance derived from the ash of burnt plants, and it was used to make things like soap.

That first patent was reviewed by Thomas Jefferson, and it was Jefferson who helped establish the first elements of trademark law.

How do you know if you need a trademark for your business? Keep reading to find out when and why you should apply.

Common-Law Rights Will Only Take You So Far

Common law rights protect and recognize the name of your business as soon as you are up and running. In the United States, these rights are granted to you as soon as you start generating sales.

If you were the first one to use that mark in commerce, you could claim common law ownership of that trademark.

Common law rights only go so far. They pertain to the geographical location where your business operates. Plus, if you end up going to court with a similar business with the same name to determine who owns the trademark, things can get murky.

If you want to own your business name or mark, you should formally register using the trademark registration application form.

Your Business Is Growing

It's easier to change a name or a mark in the beginning. But once the business starts to grow and you develop your brand identity, the best thing you can do for the future of your business is to trademark that name.

Trademarking is done through the United States government, so it's essential that you don't make any errors when filing. If you're nervous about it being precise, you can always hire a trademark lawyer to help you get it done.

If You're Not Selling Goods Yet

What if you're not selling anything yet, but you're almost ready to start, and you want to make sure your name stays protected?

In this case, you can file an "intent-to-use" trademark. It means that you plan to use your business name for commerce in the near future. Once it's approved, you have up to 6 months to start using your name to sell your good or service.

It will probably take a few months for the USPTO (the United States Patent and Trademark Office) to process and approve your application, so you have a little over 6 months from when you file to start selling.

If you're not ready when the 6-month approval period is up, you can file an extension. Just make sure you have an explanation for why you haven't used your mark in commerce yet.

There must be "good cause" for approving your extension request. You're allowed up to 5 extensions in total. But if you forget to file or file late for an extension, they'll throw out all the work you did towards acquiring your trademark.

If you fail to file any necessary extensions or paperwork on time, the USPTO will cancel your application entirely. You could risk losing your name and also end up spending a lot more money.

Make sure that, in conjunction with filing for your trademark, you make sure that you have the proper licenses and permits for your business.

Things to Remember

Remember that while common law recognizes your name from the day you start making sales, it only applies to a certain area. If you want to claim ownership of your name across the entire United States, then you have to file to trademark that name.

The Trademark Timeline Begins as You Conceptualize

Once you start conceptualizing your new business venture, you should start thinking about trademarking. 

Your trademark timeline should start early on if you don't want there to be any chance of someone stealing your genius. Even if you aren't ready to start selling your goods or service, you can still file an intent-to-use trademark.

This protects you from the day you file it so that if another business comes along and does the same thing one month later, your mark will be honored as first.

The most important thing you can do is remember to cross your t's and dot your i's. You wouldn't want to lose out on owning your niche name or mark all because you forgot to sign a document or file for an extension.

Once you do file, you'll have peace of mind knowing that your name is yours and yours alone!

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