Archives For August 2014

It’s no surprise that many business owners want to obtain trademark protection for their name or logo without paying large fees for an attorney to handle the matter. However, as with many areas of the law, a properly qualified attorney can make a world of difference to the business owner if they are trying to protect their brand. In this post we will discuss the pros and cons of engaging a trademark lawyer and show you what you should expect if you do hire a trademark attorney.

Please note that, at least with trademark law, we always advise that you use the services of an attorney. But since we know many people try to go it alone, we want to provide some basic information to help you make decisions. However, you shouldn’t rely on this post as a replacement for an attorney!

Understanding Trademark Law

The first thing to consider is whether you understand how trademark law works. Knowing the difference between common law and federally registered marks, the geographic scope of protection, the first use doctrine, arbitrary v. descriptive marks, and what a court might consider “confusingly similar,” are all important when seeking to protect your mark.

Before paying an application fee, you should consider the strength of your mark, potential infringers, and whether you are infringing the rights of others. Without understanding the above elements, it is hard to really understand your rights.

A trademark attorney’s knowledge and experience is probably the number one reason you should hire an attorney to help with your application.

Trademark Search

Assuming you are past the first consideration above, you should conduct a trademark search. You should start by searching public records such as the USPTO principal registry, Secretary of State records, news papers, magazines, and the internet. However, that process takes a lot of time and knowing where and what to search can be complicated.

An attorney can help you perform a search but there are also third party services that can provide these services for you. Of course, you’d still have to interpret the results, but you can perform and/or order one of these searches without an attorney.

Federal Trademark Application

The online USPTO trademark application is, for the most part, easy to fill out and you can complete most of it on your own. However, there are some questions to which your answers are really important and, while the form might “accept” your answer, when it gets in front of the examiner you may run into some issues.

For example, making sure you choose the proper class and goods/services description and including proper specimens causes hang-ups for a lot of applicants. Further, understanding what prior marks might cause you problems and knowing how and what to disclaim can be confusing.

So, while you can do it on your own, if you make a mistake you won’t learn about it for over three months and even then, it might be too late to correct the mistake.

Federal Trademark Denial & Appeal

The USPTO denies a lot of applications (you can read about how to respond to a denial here). Sometimes you can easily overcome an objection for small things like submitting a better specimen, but sometimes it is more complicated than that. In many cases, an attorney will be almost necessary to draft a proper response.

What You Should Do

If you are trying to skip hiring an attorney due to high fees, you should investigate new, alternative, options. For example, our trademark service is fast and efficient and it won’t break your bank. Most importantly, when you use Mighty Marks® you get the services of an actual attorney, not just a website app.

And if you have any questions about hiring us to help you with your mark, please contact us!

*This article is very general in nature and does not constitute legal advice. Readers with legal questions should consult with an attorney prior to making any legal decisions.

If you pay attention to labels and product packaging you might begin noticing lots of little icons. Each icon has a legal significance and understanding the differences among them is really important for entrepreneurs and business owners. In this post we will cover the five most common icons found on labels and packaging and explain what they mean and how and when you can use them.

Service Mark (SM) and Trademark (TM)

As we have mentioned multiple times on this blog, once you begin using a name, logo, or slogan in interstate commerce, you can claim common law protection of that brand. Common law protection simply means you can petition a court to enforce your trademark rights, however, it doesn’t mean you have a federally protected trademark.

In connection with these common law trademarks are the SM and TM symbols. TM stands for trademark and SM stands for service mark. This is usually (but not always) an indication that the brand is not yet federally registered. But the owner is still claiming the rights to the name.

® – The “Circle R”

If a mark owner takes the next step and seeks federal registration of a trademark or service mark, they can then begin using the “Circle R” icon, but only after the USPTO actually registers the mark.

If you see a mark using the ® and you want to use a similar mark, you should definitely research the mark in the USPTO database to see if your use would conflict with that prior registration.

© – The “Circle C”

The Circle C (sometimes written out as “Copyright 2014”) is an indication that the creator or owner of that work is claiming copyright protection. Unlike trademark law, the owner of a creative work can use the Circle C icon as soon as they have made an original work of authorship, regardless if they have a copyright registration for the work at question. In fact, the vast majority of works subject to copyright protection are not registered simply because registration is not required to claim copyright (although registration is strongly encouraged).

Pat. Pend. or U.S. Patent No. ###

If an inventor begins selling an invention prior to receiving a patent on the invention he or she will likely list in tiny text Patent Pending (or just Pat. Pend.) on the product to give notice to the world that a patent application is pending with the USPTO. If granted, the inventor can then list “U.S. Patent No.” and then the patent number on the product to provide notice of an actual registration. In fact, the law requires this notice if the inventor wants to seek full damages in a patent infringement lawsuit.

If you are confused as to what icon to use on your labels and packaging, or if you need help securing your trademark rights, then visit to learn more!

Image: Thinkstock/Mario Salis

*This article is very general in nature and does not constitute legal advice. Readers with legal questions should consult with an attorney prior to making any legal decisions.