When Should I Register My Trademark?

Before jumping into the details of trademark registration, it’s important to remember what a trademark is and why having one is important.

A trademark serves as a source identifier in the marketplace, so buyers know who they’re buying from and sellers can build a reputation that makes people want to buy from them. Anything that serves as a source identifier can be a trademark. Common examples are company names, product names, logos, and slogans.

Since the purpose of a trademark is to act as a source identifier for goods and services, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office wants to see proof that you are actually using the mark in the marketplace. It is possible to “reserve” a mark before you start selling, but you have to pay an extra fee, and you only get a limited window before you have to show that you’ve started selling. With these restrictions, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to register before you open a business unless you’re very concerned about infringers wanting to copy your mark. Another possible reason to register early is that you want to attract investors, who will be more interested in your company if you can show a portfolio of assets that you have exclusive rights to.

The next logical time to register your trademark would be when you first open your doors. While there is nothing wrong with registering at this point, I personally feel that, unless one of the above reasons applies to you, there may be better uses for your limited funds. Trademark registration is quite expensive, and while it gives you added security, it’s not going to improve your bottom line. In addition, infringers tend to want to copy trademarks that already have a good reputation in the marketplace, so the odds of a deliberate infringer are low when you’re getting started (and, if you were creative enough with your mark, the odds of unintentional infringers are also low).

So, when should you register your trademark? I feel that the best time to register is after you’ve started making money and have established a reputation in the marketplace. At that point you have something worth protecting, and you have the funds to give it that protection. The exact timeline for this will vary from business to business.

If you would like to learn more about when you should register a trademark, or if you would like to discuss the timing of your trademark registration, please feel free to email me at kaway@kawaylaw.com.

Kelly Way Attorney pic and bio Kelley Way was born and raised in Walnut Creek, California. She graduated from UC Davis with a B.A. in English, followed by a Juris Doctorate. Kelley is a member of the California Bar and an aspiring writer of young adult fantasy novels.