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How to Legally Copyright a Name

Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects a multitude of things including original works of authorship such as literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works like poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software and architecture. But copyright does not protect names unless there is a logo attached to them containing sufficient authorship. This means you must be the creator of the logo. In some cases, however, you can protect a name with a trademark. While a copyright generally protects artists' works, a trademark protects that which helps define a brand, such as a business name.

Tip

Copyright does not protect names unless there is a logo attached to the name containing sufficient authorship. A trademark, however, can sometimes protect a name used for business purposes without an attached logo. The name must be made up or, if it is a word that already exists, unrelated to its everyday meaning.

Research Your Business Name

To register a trademark for your name, go to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's website at www.uspto.gov. Check the Trademark Electronic Search System database to verify that your chosen name or title does not already have a registered trademark. If your name or title does not have an identical or similar trademark for services related to what you offer, you can register your name. The USPTO grants trademarks for an entity to use in a particular geographic location on a first-come, first-served basis.

Fill Out a Trademark Application

Fill out a trademark application on the USPTO website. The application must include your name and address, the name you want to use, the goods or services for which you are registering the trademark and your reason for filing. Your trademark application must also include a filing fee, which can be from $225 to $400, depending on the class of goods and services involved. You can pay by credit card, check, money order or electronic funds transfer.

If you find you've made an error after submitting your application, call the Trademark Assistance Center at 800-786-9199 or email TrademarkAssistanceCenter@uspto.gov to report the error. You may have to reapply if the error is not correctable. However, the USPTO won't refund your initial filing fee. If your application is correctable, you can submit the correction through the USPTO's Trademark Electronic Application System.

After Filing a Trademark Application

After completing your trademark application, check its status in the USPTO's Trademark Status and Document Retrieval database. There, you will be able to see where in the process your application is and review it when necessary. You can also create an account at MyUSPTO.gov to receive email notifications when the status of your application changes.

A trademark examiner will review your application, and if there are any problems, he will contact you to provide corrections. If your application is correct, the USPTO's Official Gazette will publish the trademark to see if there are any objections. If there aren't, and you are already using the trademark, you've succeeded in completing the process. If you have not yet started using the name you've trademarked, your registration will be complete once you establish that you are indeed using it.

Trademark Registration Timeline

The USPTO will publish your trademark about three months after you file your application. The whole process can take up to a year, depending on the complexity of the trademark and if there are any conflicts with other trademarked names.

Between the fifth and sixth year of having your registered trademark, you must file a Section 8 declaration, or renewal, to let the USPTO know that you are still using the trademark. You must also repeat the process between the ninth and tenth year of owning your trademark. The fee is $100 for each renewal. Failure to renew will result in cancellation of your trademark.

About the Author

Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.

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