The product that an entrepreneur develops and releases to the market is her intellectual property. As the product’s creator, she has the right to profit from it if she chooses. To protect her intellectual property from others trying to profit from her creation, she might search for how to copyright a product name.
However, product names are not protected by copyrights – they are protected by trademarks. To protect her product’s name, the entrepreneur can trademark it. A trademark is one of the four main types of intellectual property protection. The others are copyrights, trade secrets and patents.
Copyrights vs. Trademarks
It is not possible to copyright a product name. Copyrights protect creative works like novels, illustrations and today, coding for works like video games. A trademark, on the other hand, protects words, phrases, slogans, symbols and names.
Copyrights are granted automatically when a work is created. Although a creator can register to copyright his work with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), to obtain an extra layer of protection against misuse, this step is not necessary for intellectual property protection. However, registering a trademark for a product name or tagline is.
Applying for a Trademark
Trademarks are issued by the USPTO. When a trademark is issued, it exists for 10 years. When the 10-year term is close to ending, the entrepreneur can choose to renew his trademark for another 10 years. During a 10-year trademark period, the USPTO does not remind the trademark holder how much longer it will be in effect.
In fact, the trademark holder must file an affidavit with the USPTO stating that the trademark is still in use between the fifth and sixth year of the period to avoid it being terminated prematurely.
Once a product name is trademarked, it is the only product permitted to have that name. Generally, entrepreneurs looking to trademark product names determine multiple applicable names for their products before moving forward with applying for a trademark because if one name is already taken, they can easily go with another one. An entrepreneur can also look through the trademark database on the USPTO’s website to check if the name she is considering trademarking has already been taken.
Fees for Trademark Applications
The fee for a trademark application is $225, $275 or $400, depending on the requirements the entrepreneur has for her trademark. The application could also be subject to additional fees if there are additional needs associated with it, like an extended period of time to show that the mark is in use.
Completing the Trademark Process
In total, the trademark process typically takes between 12 to 18 months to complete. It begins with the filer completing his application on the USPTO’s website. The mark may be in use at this point, but it does not have to be. Between three and six months after receiving the application, the USPTO examines the application to determine whether it meets federal requirements for trademark protection.
After examining the application, the USPTO either accepts the trademark or issues an office action, which means there are issues the filer needs to correct before the application can be approved. If there are no issues with the application, the USPTO issues an Application for Opposition, which invites any others who feel the proposed trademark infringes on their own trademarks to make their opposition known. If no other parties oppose the trademark, it is approved and registered.
If the USPTO finds problems with the application during the examination period, the filer may correct the problems and respond to the USPTO to keep the application open. Once the application is free of problems, it moves forward through the Application to Opposition stage and then, if there are no oppositions, to registration. Upon receiving the Certificate of Registration for his trademark, the trademark holder is tasked with maintaining it according to USPTO regulations.