You can't actually patent names. Though also handled by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, you register names with a trademark or a service mark. To register a trademark for your business name, you need to submit an application to the USPTO and pay the corresponding filing fee.
If you are wondering how to patent a name, you might be a bit confused about which type of intellectual property protection you actually need. You cannot actually patent a name because patents are reserved for inventions and designs for machines, human-developed plants and decorative items. A name, in contrast, is protected by a trademark.
Determine What You Need
Depending on what type of intellectual property you want to protect, you might need a patent, as well as a trademark. You might even need a service mark and copyrights for your material alongside your patent name. There are multiple types of intellectual property protection designed for unique types of intellectual property:
- Patent: A patent is the intellectual property protection granted to inventions, processes, chemical compositions and manufactured commodities.
- Trademark: A trademark is the intellectual property protection granted to names, images, symbols, words and designs to differentiate them from competitors.
- Service mark: A service mark is similar to a trademark, but it is granted to specific services to differentiate them from other services in their market.
- Copyright: Copyrights are the intellectual property protections afforded to original literary, artistic, musical and computer-aided works.
- Trade secrets: Trade secrets are the proprietary formulas, recipes and processes that individuals and companies keep private to maintain an advantage over competitors
An intellectual property lawyer can help you determine exactly which protections you need and work with you to estimate the cost of obtaining these protections. Copyrights apply to creative work automatically, but this is not the case for a patent name or any other type of intellectual property protection. Additionally, many creators choose to formally copyright their work to underscore their sole right to use and license it.
Choose a Unique Name
As you research how to patent a name, one of the most important steps to take is to choose a unique name. If another company or person is already using the name you wanted to trademark, you can still potentially trademark the name, provided you are in a different business class. For example, if there is already an auto detailing service called Dirty Dawg’s Detailing, you cannot trademark the name for your own auto detailing business. You can, however, trademark the name Dirty Dawg’s Detailing for your landscaping business, your house painting business or any other type of business that is not auto detailing.
Often, the first step in the trademarking process is to conduct a search for any businesses already registered to the name the filer wants to use. If another business in the same industry is already using the name he wants, the filer can adjust his business name to find one that fits his brand and has not yet been trademarked.
File for a Trademark or Service Mark
To patent a name, you have to file for a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This application can be filed online at uspto.gov through the Trademark Electronic Application System, or TEAS. The application also can be filed through the mail or in person at the USPTO office in Alexandria, Virginia.
The cost to file a trademark application depends on the application form the filer chooses. The three options are: TEAS plus form, TEAS reduced fee form and TEAS regular form. All of these have different requirements for the filer and cost $225, $275 and $400 to file with the USPTO, respectively. Filers who choose to work with intellectual property lawyers to patent names incur legal fees as additional costs, typically spending between $1,500 to $2,000 to complete the application process.
Generally, the filer hears back from the USPTO within three months of filing his application. If the application is rejected, he may resubmit it for a $125 fee. Although the initial response to his application comes relatively quickly, it can take up to a year and potentially even longer to trademark a name.