You’ve probably reached this blog because you are staring a new business or launching a new product and somebody told you that you should consider registering a trademark. Congratulations! I admire the nerve of entrepreneurs, and the decisions that you are making that bring you to the point of registering a trademark (like defining the purpose and identity of your new business) are one of the most exciting phases and forms of self-determination that many people ever experience. You are to be commended both for the courage that brought you to the point of offering a new product or business in the market and for having the foresight to consider registering a trademark.
You want to understand the costs of registering a trademark and the benefits of registering a trademark. I’ll start with the costs of registering a trademark, because this is pretty simple. The United States Patent and Trademark Office charges a minimum fee of $325 to file an application to register a trademark for a product or business that is already in the marketplace. There is an additional $50 fee if you are registering a trademark with a paper application rather than using the online application system. There is an additional $150 fee if the product is not in use, but you are reserving the business name by registering a trademark on the basis of your intent to use the trademark after registering the trademark. This is the basic cost for government fees. For reasons that I will explain later, I recommend that you hire a lawyer to handle registering your trademark. This costs more, but you really do get what you pay for.
The benefits of registering a trademark are substantial. A trademark is a distinguishing device (it can be a name, a drawing, a sound, a color, or a smell, among other things) that helps consumers identify the source of a good or service. By registering a trademark, you are filing a claim with the government that helps to resolve disputes if there is ever a subsequent disagreement about who owns the device that you register as your trademark.
The first benefit of registering a trademark is conflict resolution. In the event that you have a disagreement with another business about who owns your trademark and has the right to use it in the marketplace, successfully registering your trademark serves as a piece of evidence that you may be the actual, exclusive, nationwide owner.
The second benefit of registering a trademark is conflict avoidance. When large companies are selecting names for new products and services, they will typically search the trademark register and avoid names or other trademarks that are already in use. People want to make money. They want to avoid trouble. By registering a trademark, you help them avoid trouble by keeping them away from your business name.