Trademarks, etc.

In the US, copyright is automatic and free. You created something? it’s yours!

Your trademarks (™) and service marks (℠) are yours, too – search carefully and well, though, since if they’re already someone else’s, they’re already someone else’s!

You will only have to go through an official process if you want the extra protection that comes with registration (®). It’s possible to go through the registration process yourself, online, for just a few hundred dollars, if you’ve got a strong stomach and good attention to detail. But…

Registering a trademark before publication has a Catch-22. You have to show use of your mark (name/logo) in the trade *first*, and only *then* will the registration be finalized, after which you can print a ® mark with your product or company name/logo – many people have applied for a registration, gotten their initial paperwork and printed the ® before showing use, courting trouble. 😕

For a product that’s likely to only have one print run, you basically can’t get an ® onto it, since you have to show that the goods were actually sold with the name/logo on them that you’re claiming as a trademark, prior to getting the final registration that legally allows you to use the ® mark.

If you’ve searched USPTO and Google, and your name/logo are in the clear, you can (and probably should) claim trademark by using ™, and then – in the pleasant case where you have a success – use that first printed run in your “statement of use” declaration as you register the trademark. It’s cheaper that way, too! Registering “intent to use” and then proving use is a two-step process, requiring two fees.

Addendum: Unlike copyright, which will outlast you under current US law, trademarks do become inactive, lapse, expire, sometimes rather quickly. A trademark holder can lose their rights by failing to use or defend their mark. That’s why you will see somewhat familiar company and product names recurring from time to time.