Basic Process & Timeline for Trademark Registration

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.

I’m going to explain the steps so you have an idea of what to expect.

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 stronger than others, and information about the different types of marks may be found in my video title, Types of Trademarks and Their Level of Protection.

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.

If all goes well with the search, the next step is filling-out and submitting your application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The length of time for my office to do this is on average about 2-weeks.

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.

From there, the USPTO examining attorney will review your application and either approve your mark for publication (more on this in a minute) or will issue initial rejections. 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, and your response is often best received when in a certain format, which is why the USPTO recommends that you have an attorney help you with your response. Within 6-months of the issuance of the refusal letter, the applicant must submit a response that addresses each refusal and either it’s necessary correction or a rebuttal.

The examining attorney will typically review your response within 1-2months.

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.

If at any time the examining attorney finds there is no reason to disapprove your application they may approve the trademark for publication, meaning that they publish it in their weekly online publication, thus giving advance notice to the public that they plan to register your trademark.

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.

The USPTO will then take approximately 3-months to approve the Statement of Use and issue a letter of 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 attorney who is familiar with trademarks.

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