Here's How Long it Takes to Register a Trademark
A common question I get from clients is, how long does it take to complete the federal trademark application process?
Unfortunately, it’s not as A-to-B as many of us would like, so if you're considering applying for a trademark, I suggest starting sooner rather than later.
How Long Does it Take to Register a Trademark?
In general, the trademark registration process takes about 12-18 months according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). However, the trademark application and registration complex can become lengthy, and it's easy to get caught up in each phase.
Here's what to expect from the trademark application process so you can make sure you're as prepared as possible.
Trademark Application Process: Start Sooner Rather Than Later
When applying for a trademark, it's best to budget around a year of time from start to finish, however, the process can become more drawn out if you aren't properly prepared, or if the USPTO issues any Office Actions after you apply.
I’m going to explain the steps of registering for a trademark so you have an idea of what to expect.
Step 1: Choose a Strong Mark
Step one is choosing a strong mark to reduce the likelihood of confusion with other already existing marks or brands.
There are several different types of marks:
Some marks are stronger than others. For example, the fanciful mark is considered much stronger than a generic trademark because it uses imaginative words or phrases instead of something that's a part of everyday speech.
It's best to choose the strongest mark possible!
Step 2: Conduct a Thorough Search of Existing Marks
Step two is conducting a thorough search to see if there are other parties who are using a mark or brand that may conflict with yours. This is generally a 3-5 day process, depending on what you find.
Step 3: Fill Out & Submit Application to the USPTO
If all goes well with the search, the next step is filling out and submitting your application to the USPTO. The length of time for my office to do this is on average about two weeks.
While it is possible to submit your trademark application yourself, there are quite a few different documents that need to be prepared, so it's beneficial to have an experienced attorney's assistance at this stage in the process.
Step 4: Case is Turned Over to an Attorney at the USPTO
After you file the application, your case will be turned over to an examining attorney at the USPTO. Just getting assigned to an attorney takes roughly 3-4 months.
Step 5: Mark is Approved or Rejected
From there, the USPTO examining attorney will review your application and either approve your mark for publication or issue initial rejections.
If your mark is approved, congratulations! You get to move on to step 7!
If rejected, you will receive a rejection letter. A rejection letter explains the reasons your mark is not eligible for registration, and any requirements you may be able to meet in order to get approval. The rejection letter is written in legalise, so it can be confusing for many applicants.
Step 6: Send a Response if You Received a Refusal Letter
The USPTO recommends having an attorney at this stage in the process to help you with your response, as the examining attorney prefers it in a specific format. You must send your response to the refusal letter within six months of its issue date, and your response must address each refusal with either a correction or a rebuttal.
The examining attorney will typically review your response within one to two months.
If your response does not overcome all concerns presented by the examining attorney, they will issue a “final office action”, giving you one last shot to address their concerns. It can take them up to 6-months to get you this final action.
Step 7: Trademark is Approved & Published
If at any time the examining attorney finds there is no reason to disapprove your application they may approve the trademark for publication. This means that they publish it in their weekly online publication, thus giving advance notice to the public that they plan to register your trademark.
Objections May Be Filed
Within 30 days of publishing, anyone can file an objection if they believe their business will be harmed if your mark is registered. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board and a panel of judges will review and decide on the matter. An opposition does delay the approval of your application and is often a rather complex legal matter, so you will want an attorney representing you for this.
If the Trial and Appeal Board finds in your favor then a Notice of Allowance is issued, which indicates your mark will be approved for registration after an acceptable Statement of Use is filed.
Step 8: Letter of Registration is Issued
The USPTO will then take approximately three months to approve the Statement of Use and issue a letter of registration.
Things That Could Affect the Trademark Registration Timeline
As seen in the steps above, there are multiple points of the trademark registration process where delays could happen.
The most common issues that delay the process are:
Mark isn't strong enough - If you don't choose a strong enough mark, the likelihood your application will be rejected is pretty high.
Application is rejected - After submitting your application, an examining attorney at the USPTO reviews it and either approves or rejects it. If your application is rejected, you must send a response letter within six months. Once you've sent in the letter, it can take the attorney an additional three to four months to review your letter.
Objection is filed when your trademark is published - After your trademark is approved and published in the weekly USPTO publication, anyone can file an objection. This could delay your official trademark registration by a few more months.
Need Help with Trademark Registration?
As you can see, the process may be long and sometimes complex. Unless you have a lot of time on your hands and are naturally legal savvy, I highly recommend hiring an experienced trademark attorney.