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Ask The Experts: Establishing a Trademark

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Q: What is the best way to establish a trademark for a business?

A: There are two types of trademarks. One is filed at the state level with your secretary of state office. The second trademark is filed at the national level with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The difference between the two is that one provides a registration only in your state while the national trademark provides protection throughout the U.S. 

To get a national trademark, you must be conducting interstate trade or intend to do so within one year.

As for the best way to get a trademark, that will depend on which trademark you wish to procure and the complexities of your trademark.

The first thing I suggest is for you to get an understanding of the trademark process. The book “Trademark: Legal Care for Your Business & Product Name” is available from Nolo either in print or as an e-book. It will give you the basics as well as explain how to apply for a trademark.

At the federal level, go to uspto.gov. In the trademark section you’ll find information on trademarks. You can also search the site to find out if a trademark is already in use. This is only a basic search site. Before you file, do a full trademark search using either a search service or an intellectual property attorney.

Go to your secretary of state’s website to find information about filing for a state trademark.

If you will be dealing with a complex trademark or there is the possibility that you might have an infringement issue, you will want to seek out the services of a patent and trademark attorney.


Get More Answers

The NASE’s small-business experts are here to help you understand trademarks, copyrights, patents and other legal issues. And access to these professionals is free with your NASE Membership!

Just go online to the NASE’s Business Learning Center where you can ask the experts questions about:

  • Taxes
  • Business strategies
  • Retirement planning
  • Business legal issues
  • Health care reform
  • Accounting and finances


The experts are available 24/7 and ready to help!


Read this article in PDF form here.
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