What is a trademark (or “trade mark”, depending on where you live)?
A trade mark or “trademark” (depending on what country you are in), is a form of intellectual property consisting of a recognisable sign, design or expression which enables a consumer to know who you are; to easily distinguish your products or services as originating from you; and that can additionally act as reassurance of quality and reputation.

How long does it take to get a trademark?
In the US, UK and EU, average times are 18-24 months, 4-6 months and 5-9 months, respectively. This is if your application does not receive an office action or opposition.

What if my TM application receives an Office Action?
Once you have filed your application, an Examiner will review it to make sure it complies with the law. Relatively often, though, the Examiner will find a problem with the application. Sometimes it is not a big deal and can be fixed readily, but other times it can be serious. Either way, the Examiner will first issue a Non-Final or Provisional Refusal, also known as an Office Action. The Office Action will be sent to you. It will state what the problem is and give you a deadline to respond. Once you have filed your response, the Examiner will either agree with you, and your application will proceed, or s/he will disagree with you. If s/he disagrees with you, you may get another Non-Final/Provisional Refusal (which you can file another response to), or you could receive a Final Refusal. If you receive a Final Refusal, then you need to think about whether you want to fight it, the process for which exceeds the scope of this article.

What if my TM application receives an Opposition?
If your application gets past the initial examination and any Office Actions, the next step is publication in the USPTO, UKIPO or EUIPO publication journals. Publication gives the world anywhere from 1 to 3 months (depending on jurisdiction) to challenge your application with an Opposition. The clock starts ticking on the day our application is published. An interesting side note – In the US, if your mark is similar to an existing registered mark or pending application, then the Examiner will ask you to defend your mark with an Office Action. In contrast, the UK individually writes the potentially aggrieved parties and invites them to oppose your application. If you receive an Opposition to your application, this can mean you are in for a long process. First, there is a cooling-off period that can last months. Only after this cooling off period will the briefing period begin. It’s similar to mini-litigation in court and can last more than a year.

What are trademark classifications?
Trademarks are split into 45 different industries, called “classes” or “classifications”. These classes were established at a convention in Nice, France, and are therefore formally referred to as “Nice Classifications.” For example, clothing is in Class 25 and laptops are in Class 09. Big, well known trademarks like “Coca Cola” enjoy protection in all 45 classes because the trademark is so well known. However, for almost everybody else, the trademark you apply for will only protect you in the class(es) that you register it in. Note that in some cases a trademark will also cover related classes, but that is a technical question beyond the scope of this FAQ.

How much does it cost to get a trademark?
In the US, UK and EU, government application fees start at $250, £170 and €850, respectively, for the first class. Adding a second class costs an additional $250, £50 and €50. Adding a third class, and for every class after that costs an additional $250, £50 and €150. For simple applications, attorneys typically charge about £600-£800/$750-$1,000 to prepare and file the application, and to relay correspondence from the government to you (office actions and oppositions are extra).

Where do you apply to register a trademark?
In the US, UK and EU, you file your application with the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) and European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), respectively.

Where can you look-up trademarks?
In the US, UK and EUIPO, it’s the USPTO, UKIPO and EUIPO, which can be found here and here, respectively.

Can a trademark be a design?
Yes. Think of the Nike swoosh. However, the design cannot be functional. If the design is functional, then it cannot be trademarked, because the design would typically fall under the law for design patents (which are a kind of patent).

What is trademark infringement?
Where someone uses your trademark without your permission. Note that there are some exceptions to this called “fair use” exceptions, such as referring to your business name in a magazine article.

Who can sue for infringement of a trademark?
The trademark owner, or a licensee if permitted by the trademark owner.

Can a company name infringe a trademark?

How do you enforce and resolve a trademark dispute?
The trademark owner typically writes the infringer asking them, at the very least, to cease and desist from their infringing use. If the infringer complies, then the matter is essentially resolved, but you may want an agreement where the infringer states it will never infringe again. If the infringer does not comply, then you can commence trademark infringement proceedings in court.

What are the 4 types of intellectual property?
Trademark, Copyright, Patent and Trade Secret.

Is IP the same as copyright?
Copyright is one of the 4 types of intellectual property (IP).