In order to trademark a brand, you first need to decide whether you want to register the trademark or leave it unregistered. Leaving it unregistered requires very little action on your part, though you should ensure that the mark is unique and does not too closely resemble any registered trademark. You also should check your local laws, because unregistered trademark regulations vary from country to country and even from region to region. Though lengthy, registering a trademark is advantageous because it gives you certain rights and an assurance that the mark is nationally unique. Unregistered trademarks need to be unique only within a region, provided that they don't infringe on a registered trademark.
When deciding to trademark a brand, you should first determine what you will use as a trademark. Trademarks can be symbols, words, letters, designs or a combination of those things. Even if you decide to keep your trademark unregistered, you should check the uniqueness of your mark in order to avoid any trademark infringements. The trademark office in your area should have a searchable database for this purpose, and the database might be accessible over the Internet.
If you decide to federally trademark a brand, you must file an application in order to register. You generally can file electronically or by mail, but there is a longer turn around time when filing by traditional mail. There are several things you must include with your application, including a fee.
After you have determined that your trademark is unique, you will need to decide specifically the goods or services for which your mark will be used. The trademark office should provide a list of all goods and services, arranged according to class, that can be trademarked. You should refer to this list when completing this portion of the application.
A trademark office typically requires that you submit a drawing of the mark with the application. There generally are two formats for this purpose: standard character and design. The standard character format is used if the trademark will have no design elements, such as symbols, pictures or foreign language characters, and if the font, size and color of the mark can or will be varied. The design format is used in all other cases. For example, if your trademark will always be purple or the first letter will always be capitalized, you would use the design format.
In addition to the drawing, you will need to provide a specimen. A specimen should be an actual example of the goods or services on which your trademark will be used. If you have more than one class of item listed on your application, you will need to provide a specimen for each class.
The trademark office will review the application after it has been submitted. If the application is refused, you typically will be able to respond, correct any errors or appeal the decision. If the trademark office approves the mark, it will be recorded and published. After it is published, anyone who wants to oppose the trademark's registration will have a period of time, such as 30 days, when they can do so. If there is no opposition, the mark will be officially registered, typically about two months later, and you will have a certain amount of time to begin using the trademark — if you have not already been using it — or to file an extension.
After the mark is registered, it must be renewed every so often. In many places, this much be done five to six years after registration and then every 10 years after that. When renewing your trademark, you will always have to provide proof the mark is still being used for its original intent.
The entire process of registering a trademark can take as long as several years. If you want to trademark a brand for immediate use, you might consider using the unregistered mark while you go through the registration process. This will give you local trademark protection while you work to complete the process of registration.