If you have a product you are looking to sell or already do sell, chances are high you will want to get a trademark or service mark for your product name.
How to Trademark a Product Name
Trademarks and services marks (used interchangeably in this article) can provide important intellectual property rights that will help your product succeed in the market.
How to Come Up With the Best Product Name
Before you can trademark your product, you will need to come up with the best name for your product. There are a few tips you should take to heart if you want to set up your product for a successful trademark registration with the USPTO.
Avoid Generic Names
One of the most important things to keep in mind when picking out a product name is to avoid generic names. To qualify for trademark registration, a product name must be distinctive. Trademarks must distinguish a product from another source based on the distinctiveness of the underlying name.
Names that are generally descriptive, i.e., simply describe your product without any unique element, typically will not qualify for federal trademark registration. Simply put, this means you cannot trademark the name “sweet soap” as a trademark for the product soap.
This means the more unique your product name is, the better. This is why made-up names are so successful from a trademark perspective.
Moreover, made-up names are often also successful from a brand name recognition perspective, because the public does not associate your product name with anything else.
Sometimes, a generic brand name may be more important to you because you really want to make sure the public understands what your underlying product is. However, from a long-term perspective, developing a product name that uniquely identifies your product will often go a long way in its success.
It is typically helpful to have a trademark for your product should your product become very successful down the line. Trademark registration provides you with important legal rights to exclude other competitors from using a similar name, as explained in more detail below.
Develop a Fanciful or Arbitrary Name
The most successful types of names for getting a trademark are those that are classified as fanciful or arbitrary. If you are looking to trademark your product’s name, these are the kinds of names to shoot for.
A fanciful trademark is a made-up word developed specifically for a particular good or service. Examples of fanciful trademarks are names such as Nikon, Kleenex, or Exxon.
These words have no meaning in the English language other than to describe the specific product that they were created to describe. Typically, the USPTO will easily grant these types of product names with trademark registration.
An arbitrary trademark is one in which the underlying name has absolutely nothing to do with the specific product or service being sold.
This means arbitrary trademarks are real words in the English language, but because the real world is not typically associated with the particular goods or services at hand, it can obtain a trademark within its specific context. Some examples of arbitrary trademarks are Shell gas stations or White Barn candles.
Why Getting a Trademark for Your Product Name Is Important
Most of the time, it is a great idea to get trademark protection for your product name. By getting a trademark, you will ensure the greatest legal protection for your product name. Because the product being sold is often the most important component of a business, it is very important that you secure the greatest legal protection over your product name as possible.
Trademark registration with the USPTO provides you with enhanced legal protection for your product name. This is because you will have priority over the product name on a national scale from the date you file your trademark application with the USPTO.
Federal trademark registration allows you to seek legal action against a party that infringes on your product name to stop them from using this competing product name.
Typically this legal action will end up in federal court, where you can pursue common law rights as well as your rights under federal trademark laws. Should you win your lawsuit, you will be able to receive damages from the infringing party for the harm their competing product name did to you and your business.
Moreover, you will often also be able to get an injunction against the infringing party to stop them from using the competing product name entirely.
Steps to Getting a Trademark for Product Names
Once you have settled on the best product name, it is time to get the actual trademark registration. There are a few steps in this process that will set you up for success.
Conduct Trademark Searches
The first step in the trademark application actually isn’t the application at all. It can be vital to the success of your trademark application to spend time searching the USPTO’s trademark database to see what other similar or potentially identical product names may have already obtained trademarks. These searches will help you determine the success of your trademark application.
There is a database housed by the USPTO called the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). The TESS database contains all trademark registrations and pending applications. The USPTO has published some tips for searching through the TESS database.
As a general rule, be sure to test out different variations of your product name within the database. Also be sure to check other, related fields and industries to determine any potentially similar competing products. This will help make sure you get the most comprehensive results that you can.
It can be very helpful to consult with a trademark attorney on these searches. Trademark attorneys are very knowledgeable about the TESS database and can be sure to cover all necessary avenues for your product.
Prepare and File Your Trademark Application
Next up, it’s time to prepare your trademark application using the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS). There are two application forms to choose from:
- TEAS Plus
- TEAS Regular
The difference between the two will be whether you can pick from a specific list of classifications to place your product in, or if it is important to draft specific language for your product’s classification. The fees range between the two between $250-$350 per classification, so can go up depending on how many classifications you choose.
Make sure you have used your product name in commerce before you submit your application, or that you have an impending intent to use the product name very soon.
Work With the Assigned USPTO Attorney
The next step is to work with the USPTO attorney that has been assigned to your specific trademark application. The length and depth of the USPTO attorney’s questions for you will depend on the specific circumstances of your trademark and product. In general, it is important to be responsive and thorough in your responses.
Once all of the attorney’s questions have been answered, your trademark will be published in the USPTO’s magazine called the Official Gazette. So long as no one files any complaints against your trademark, the USPTO will then issue your final trademark certificate of registration.