Learn how to trademark a phrase: Protect your brand identity!

Why do you feel the need to trademark a phrase? Well, the words you choose to describe your business must be protected to prevent it from being used by another person or brand. So, if you have a catchy slogan in your mind that defines your business, you should trademark it ASAP.

Using an appealing slogan can help improve your brand image and recognition. Such slogans or phrases may also attract other companies so you might feel the necessity to trademark your slogan before it gets stolen. To protect it, you must know how to trademark a phrase.

First, look out for types of trademark protections available for phrases like slogans, mottos, taglines, etc. 

How to trademark a slogan or phrase

There are several ways to protect a slogan or phrase. Amongst them, one is “Common law” trademark protection. This trademark is acquired prominently in product/service marketing. The only con associated with this type of trademark protection is, you must prove in the court that your brand was the first one who used this tagline/slogan openly during product/service marketing. 

The best option to secure a trademark is to register. In most cases, it can be done directly with the state government via a registration agency. However, this type of trademark protection requires compliance with state’s laws requirements and may vary from state to state. Moreover, it will only protect the registered slogan/phrase in the particular state where it was registered.

For nationwide trademark protection, you must register the slogan with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, also known as USPTO. Whether the trademark is for a slogan, tagline, or phrase, the same procedure will be followed in trademark registration.

Federal rules for trademark registration

Federal trademark rules for a phrase or slogan registration are confusing. Not everyone can register every trademark. If somehow you get your registration done successfully, it will not be completely protected. 

Here are some rules that must be complied with while registering a trademark, otherwise your application can end up being rejected. 

  • A phrase can only be registered and trademarked if it’s for a commercial purpose. The government policies don’t allow you to register or trademark a slogan without any purpose. For instance, if you like a few words and don’t want them to be used by any other person, it cannot be registered until it has something to do with the sale of some product or service.
  • Your trademarked phrase can only be protected against those with similar businesses.
  • Your trademarked phrase must be identified as a source of selling a product or service. If it only describes the goods/services, application for registration may get rejected.
  • If your phrase doesn’t match the one you applied for the registration form, the application may get rejected.
  • The phrase must not be confused with the already existing ones or the ones with pending applications of similar businesses.
  • Descriptive and generic phrases cannot be registered. It should be distinctive and easily distinguishable. A distinctive phrase used by one business can be generic to another business. For instance, mango can be trademarked by a clothing brand but not by a company that sells mangoes.
  • Commonly used terms in business cannot be trademarked or could be used in the candidate’s type of business.
  • Phrases that are part of day-to-day speech cannot be used. For instance, “I’m doing great”, “how are you doing” etc. Such phrases if used can confuse the consumers and above all, are more likely to be rejected. It may be confusing if you think because the phrase “that’s hot” was registered to use with a few products.

If you try to figure out the underlying reason why some phrases get rejected and others get accepted, you won’t find a thing. Maybe, the concept is confusing because of the changing policies.

Application process for federal trademark

The federal application process consists of some simple steps which can also be completed over the internet through the USPTO’s website. 

The first step comprises trademark phrase research. To ensure that the phrase you are interested in is not taken or already registered, conduct trademark phrase research. This process can be done through USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS)

The following step is to file a trademark registration application. This can also be done via USPTO Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). The only downside to this registration is that you must pay a mandatory registration fee even if your application is not approved.

After applying, the next step is to wait till your application is reviewed by the attorney appointed by the USPTO. Now there are three possibilities, either your application will be accepted or rejected and in the third scenario, the attorney can ask to submit more information.

If you plan to establish a large business and have a good slogan in mind, it is best to secure your trademark with federal registration. However, for small businesses, you may need to review the pros and cons of registering a phrase as in some cases the cons outweigh the benefits. 

Importance of trademark

Protecting your phrase is as important as establishing your business. This helps protect your slogan/tagline to be used by other businesses. 

  • It is preferred to register the phrase with the USPTO to protect it from getting copied by any business nationwide. No resident can claim the right to your property.
  • In case, if somebody uses your registered phrase you can file a lawsuit in federal court against them.
  • A registered trademark is legally valued. No proof is required to prove the validity of the trademark.

Why it is difficult to trademark a phrase

  • You must pay a heavy registration price/fee for each class.
  • Per class costs around $225 to $400. A trademark for three classes will cost you nearly $1000 altogether.
  • Your phrase needs to be unique in your business category, otherwise, it will get rejected.
  • The phrase must state a selling objective, or it will not get approved.
  • Humorous or informative phrases cannot be registered. For instance, “my boat has an engine” etc.
  • Trademark registration becomes invalid after a year; you may need to renew it after that.
  • You have a legal responsibility to defend your trademark.
  • You cannot stop other business categories from using your trademark until it is not affecting your business negatively.

It is easy to determine how to trademark a phrase, but you might face complications while filling out the application form. If it is not filled out properly, it may be rejected. For this reason, you need to find an experienced lawyer who can help you run the application process smoothly.

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