When is the Best Time to Trademark Your Company Name?

time to get trademark

For new businesses just embarking on their journey, a crucial question often arises: ‘What is the best time to trademark our company name?’ Deciding whether to file a trademark application can be a pivotal decision.

Should business owners invest in registering their trademark before their product or service is market-ready, or is it more prudent to wait until they are prepared for an official launch?

Understanding the ideal timing for trademarking is essential for protecting your brand and setting the foundation for future success.

In the U.S., a business gets common law rights to a name as soon as it is used in commerce. That means that as soon as you start selling a product or service, you can claim common law ownership of that trademark without formally registering it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

However, these common law rights are limited to the particular geographic location where the mark is used, and will offer limited help in court should you want to challenge someone’s use of the same or similar name.

As a result, it’s typically best for a business to lock up their trademark rights for their company name as soon as possible.

In many cases, a business will want to start the trademark application as soon as their LLC or corporation paperwork is filed.

By filing for a trademark prior to launch, you can be sure that your name is protected once you begin commercial sales. However, there may be an even stronger reason to apply early.

best time to trademark

Introduction to Branding

Establishing a strong brand identity is crucial for any new business. Your brand is more than just a logo or a company name; it encapsulates your business’s values, message, and the unique experience you offer to customers.

In the initial stages, focus on defining what sets your business apart and how you want to be perceived in the marketplace. This foundational step is vital before diving into deeper aspects of branding, such as legal protections and marketing strategies.

The Best Time to Trademark Your Company Name

As your brand identity takes shape, it’s essential to consider the best time to trademark and therefore the legal protection of your company name through trademark registration. In the U.S., while common law rights are assigned as soon as you use a name in commerce, these rights are limited geographically.

To avoid future legal complications and secure your brand nationally, consider trademarking as soon as your business model is defined and before you begin extensive marketing efforts.

The best time to trademark is more often than not, early, which not only protects your brand but also ensures that you’re not inadvertently infringing on another company’s trademark, which could lead to costly legal battles and rebranding.

Marketing and Expansion Strategies

With your brand identity established and legally protected, the next step is to focus on marketing and expansion strategies. This involves leveraging various channels and techniques to increase brand visibility and attract customers.

From digital marketing efforts like social media campaigns and SEO to traditional methods like print advertising and networking events, each strategy plays a role in growing your business.

Remember, the effectiveness of these strategies is amplified when operating under a protected brand, free from the risks of trademark disputes.

Benefits of Trademarking Your Business Name

These points illustrate several compelling reasons why applying for a trademark early in your business journey can be beneficial:

  • Protects your name once you begin commercial sales
  • Ensures your proposed name isn’t already in use by another business
  • Provides the legal backing to challenge any infringement
  • Allows your filing date to serve as the date of the first use
  • Facilitates international business expansion

Comprehensive Trademark Search

Your application for a trademark is typically accompanied by a comprehensive trademark and name search.

This means that you will search the USPTO database, as well as local and state databases, to ensure that your proposed name isn’t already in use by somebody else in a similar industry/field.

When you apply to be an LLC/corporation, the state will verify that your name is available within that state, but it doesn’t check to see what’s happening in the other 49 states.

Unless you perform a comprehensive trademark search, you run the risk of accidentally infringing on someone else’s name.

If that happens, you can be ordered to stop using your name immediately, and all the hard work you put in to building your brand name in the market will fly out the window.

best time to get trademark

“Intent-to-Use” Trademark Applications

While it’s advisable to apply for a trademark as soon as possible, there is one catch. Having a trademark implies that your product or service is market-ready and the trademarked name is being used in interstate commerce (i.e. selling in more than one state).

But what happens when you’re not quite ready for market yet?

In this case, the USPTO lets you file an “intent-to-use” trademark application, which is exactly as it sounds. . .you plan on using the name in commerce in the near future.

Once the USPTO approves your intent-to-use application, you must start using the name in commerce within six months. Keep in mind it should take at least several months for the USPTO to process and approve your application.

best time to trademark

If you are still not ready six months after approval, you can file for an extension. Then, you are allowed up to four additional six-month extensions. For each extension request, the USPTO wants to see “good cause” as to why your name has not yet been used in commerce.

The main advantage of filing an intent-to-use application is that your filing date will serve as the date of the first use, even if your product/service isn’t in the market yet. Your first-date use can be very important down the road in the event there’s a conflict with another business name.

In order for your intent-to-use filing to be successful, you must continue to request extensions on time, and ultimately use the name in commerce (start selling your product and service).

If you fail to use the name or request an extension, the USPTO will deem your application to be abandoned and cancel your application altogether.

This means you will need to start the application process all over again, including paying the application fees a second time.

Consider International Trademarks

If your business ambitions stretch beyond national boundaries, intending to sell products or offer services internationally, it becomes essential to consider filing for trademark protection in other countries.

Different countries uphold diverse rules and regulations concerning trademarks. Merely having protection in the U.S. does not assure your rights in other nations.

As global commerce becomes increasingly interconnected, protecting your brand on an international scale can prevent potential disputes and protect your business’s identity in various markets.

It’s wise to consult with a legal professional familiar with international trademark law to help guide you through this complex process.

best time to trademark

Re-evaluation and Renewal

Trademarks, rather than being a set-and-forget asset, require continuous attention and management. It’s critical to monitor your trademark’s usage within your market and ensure that no party is infringing upon your rights.

It’s also essential to remember that trademarks aren’t eternal – they need to be renewed with the USPTO every ten years.

Regular re-evaluation of your trademark’s value, significance, and relevance in your market sector is crucial for ensuring continuous protection and market presence.

This periodic review also allows you to adapt your trademark strategy to shifts in market trends, competitive landscape, and evolving business goals.

Risks of Not Trademarking Your Business Name

  • Limited rights to the business name outside of your geographic location
  • Potential infringement on another business’s name
  • Risk of losing all the hard work put into building your brand
  • Legal issues and fines related to name disputes
  • Application fees and other costs associated with late trademarking

This table provides an easy-to-follow guide, helping you ensure you’re taking all necessary measures during the application process:

FilingSubmit your intent-to-use application to the USPTO
Initial ApprovalStart using the name in commerce within six months of approval
ExtensionIf not ready after six months, file for an extension with a "good cause"
Multiple ExtensionsAllowed up to four additional six-month extensions
Start UsingMust start selling the product/service in commerce
AbandonmentFailure to use the name or request an extension leads to application cancellation

Why Choosing the Best Time to Trademark Matters

Your business’ brand is its livelihood. Do all that you can to protect yours by applying for trademark protection (either full trademark or intent-to-use) as soon as possible.

This ensures that you are not putting yourself at significant legal risk by using someone else’s name, in addition to being the most effective way to protect your own brand and name.

Trademark Photo via Shutterstock

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Nellie Akalp Nellie Akalp is a passionate entrepreneur, recognized business expert and mother of four. She is the CEO of CorpNet, the smartest way to start a business, register for payroll taxes, and maintain business compliance across the United States.