Trademarks are a form of intellectual property that legally protects your business’s name, slogan, logo and/or other words and symbols that distinguish you from market competitors. With a state trademark, other businesses in the state may not use or register a similar trademark. Federal trademark protection extends to all 50 states as well as internationally.

Follow these steps to register a federal trademark for your business.

Search the trademark database

If another active business selling similar products or services has already registered a similar trademark, your trademark is not eligible for registration and you will have to choose a different mark. Search for similar marks through the Trademark Electronic Search System maintained by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Apply online

When you have settled on a trademark that is not already in use, complete the online trademark application through the USPTO. You must provide information about the goods and services you plan to sell along with examples of the mark in question and the date you began using the mark in commerce.

The less specific your mark, the broader protection you will receive. However, a mark that is too general is ineligible for registration. An intellectual property attorney may provide advice on whether your trademark is eligible for registration.

Receive and respond to office actions

The initial review of your trademark application lasts about four months. You will then receive either approval of your trademark or an office action, which is correspondence requesting additional information or changes to your mark. You must adequately respond to this action within the specified time frame or the agency will abandon your application.

Most valid trademark applications receive approval within six months of the initial application. When your trademark receives initial approval, the USPTO will publish the mark and allow 30 days for other parties to challenge the mark before final approval. If the agency denies your trademark application, you may appeal this decision by filing a Notice of Appeal with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.