How to Register Trademarks and Copyrights

How to Register Trademarks and Copyrights

Many lawyers provide trademark and copyright registration services. If you wish to protect intellectual property, using a lawyer is a hassle-free way to do so - but it can also be relatively expensive. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (where you'll register trademarks) and the U.S. Copyright Office (where you'll register copyrighted material) take applications online; you can complete the forms, upload the right files, and pay the fee yourself, avoiding the cost of having a lawyer take care of the process for you.

Here's a brief primer on the process.

Registering Trademarks

A trademark is a word, a phrase, a design, or a symbol (or a combination of these items) used to identify the source of a product or service from other parties who may provide the same products or services. A trademark can also be used to protect those items when they are used to identify a specific product or process. (For example, the word "Macintosh" is a name used to identify certain computers made by Apple; Macintosh is a registered trademark of Apple.)

So how does the process work? It starts with an application. You provide:

  • An application with contact information, the nature of your business, and a listing of the goods and services your business provides
  • A drawing (digital image) of the mark you wish to register. A "mark" can be a word, phrase, design, image, etc - whatever you wish to trademark.
  • Examples of how the trademark will be used (samples of packaging, Web use, etc.) Examples will be provided as digital images.
  • The filing fee

Your application is then reviewed. (The process can take a number of weeks.) If the item(s) you wish to trademark do not meet the requirements, your filing fee is refunded. If you are granted a trademark, you can use the "registered" symbol ( ® ) beside your trademark, showing it has been successfully registered with the Patent and Trademark Office. (While your application is under review you can use the "trademark" symbol ( ™ ) to show that your application is under review.

Keep in mind that a trademark may not be granted if the mark is considered to be generic or to infringe upon another trademark already granted. You can search the trademark database for similar company names, product names, service names, etc., to get a sense of whether your application will be successful or not. The more unique and distinctive your mark, the more likely your application will be approved.

The process isn't complicated but it can be time-consuming. In general, an attorney will not provide any services that you would not be able to perform on your own. Learning to file for trademark protection on your own could save hundreds of dollars.

For more information about trademarks, and to apply for a trademark online, visit the Patent and Trademark Office at www.uspto.gov .

Registering Copyrights

Copyrights protect the work of authors, photographers, artists, and other creators. Basically, if you create something, you reserve the right to that creation and others are not allowed to copy or use that creation. (Simple example: This article is copyrighted and should not be used or reproduced without our permission.)

Copyright is automatically granted when a work is created. Registering is not required, but registering can make it simpler if you need to stop someone who has used your work without your permission. In addition, registration is sometimes necessary before you can successfully bring a lawsuit to enforce your rights. And if you register within three months of the date you publish your work (in Web terms, "publish" means "put on your website"), then you can claim statutory damages and recover attorney's fees if your suit is successful.

To apply for copyright, three items are essential: a completed application form, a nonrefundable filing fee and a nonreturnable submission of a copy or copies of the work being registered. The U.S. Copyright Office (http://www.copyright.gov) does take applications online via the Electronic Copyright Office, or eCO. There are several advantages to this method as compared to mail registration:

  • Lower filing fee - Using eCO eService, the fee is $35 per application. By mail, the fee is $50 per application.
  • Rapid processing time
  • Online status tracking
  • Secure payment through credit or debit card, electronic check or Copyright Office deposit account
  • Ability to upload certain categories of deposits directly into the Copyright Office account as electronic files

Even if you must mail payment - a requirement for some published works, you can still save money. The Electronic Copyright Office will instruct you to designate whether you intend to submit an electronic or a hard-copy deposit and will then offer instructions.

Basic claims include a single work; multiple unpublished works provided the elements are arranged in an organized form; and a single title identify multiple elements.

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