Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview about intellectual property and trademark with Andrea Evans @evansiplaw. Andrea is the owner of the IP law firm, The Law Firm of Andrea Hence Evans, LLC. She is a graduate of George Washington Law School, Spelman College, and Georgia Tech. For more information: www.evansiplaw.com/book
SmallBizLady: What is intellectual property (IP)?
Andrea Evans: Intellectual property is divided into three types – patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Patents protect inventions. Trademarks protect brands. And copyrights protect written works.
SmallBizLady: What types of things can be trademarked?
Andrea Evans: A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols, or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. Names, words, images, sounds, objects, scents, and colors that are used to identify and distinguish goods and services and that are used as a source identifier can be protected by federal trademarks.
SmallBizLady: What is the benefit of registering your trademark federally with the USPTO?
Andrea Evans: The key benefit of federal registration is the legal presumption of ownership of the mark and the exclusive right to use the mark for the goods and services identified on the federal registration.
SmallBizLady: How do you determine the cost of your trademark application?
Andrea Evans: The USPTO has 45 classes. Each class has a fee starting at $225/class. Expect to pay attorneys fees plus the USPTO fees.
SmallBizLady: What makes a trademark weak or strong?
Andrea Evans: Brands are on a spectrum ranging from weak to strong. Weak terms are generic, and generic terms can never be trademarked! Consider creating a word or using a term that is arbitrary, similar to Apple for computers.
SmallBizLady: What’s a common myth about trademarks?
Andrea Evans: A common myth is that owning a domain name means that you own the trademark and vice versa. The truth is that owning a domain name does not necessarily mean that you own the trademark or vice versa. If the domain name functions as a source identifier, it can be registered similar to match.com.
SmallBizLady: Is a trademark search necessary?
Andrea Evans: Although it is not required, it is recommended to search your trademark before filing a trademark application. Searches can be conducted at www.uspto.gov but consult with an attorney for a professional search.
SmallBizLady: What is the difference between TM and symbol ®?
Andrea Evans: The ® symbol may be used once the trademark registers at the USPTO. The TM symbol can be used prior to registration.
SmallBizLady: How long does it take to register a trademark at the USPTO?
Andrea Evans: It can take at least 2-3 months for the trademark application to be assigned to a Trademark Examining Attorney at the USPTO. Once examined, the mark is published for a month, and if it is not challenged, it registers. The entire process can take up to one year.
SmallBizLady: Is it required to work with an attorney to file a trademark application?
Andrea Evans: Although it is not required, it is recommended that you work with a qualified trademark attorney. Remember, the application is a legal document, and you want to ensure that you have been counseled and understand all options.
SmallBizLady: Do international trademarks exist?
Andrea Evans: There is no such thing as an “international” trademark, but trademarks can be registered in other countries. Each country has its own laws, and it’s recommended to consult with foreign counsel, as needed.
SmallBizLady: Do trademark registrations expire?
Andrea Evans: Yes. However, if renewal documents are filed timely and you continuously use the mark, the trademark will be maintained. Coca-Cola has owned their registration since the 1800s!