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A trademark is a word, sign, phrase or design, like a logo, that identifies your business’s goods or services and distinguishes them from your competitors – and the best way to protect your trademark is by registering it with the Trademark Office America. (USPTO).
How Much Does A Trademark Lawyer Cost
While it is possible to register a trademark yourself, most businesses – especially those registering a trademark for the first time, are represented by a trademark attorney. Here’s how to find a great trademark attorney, including some tips on how to get free legal help for trademark applications.
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The trademark registration process, especially for a first-time applicant, can be lengthy and confusing. There are many deadlines to follow, and if you make a mistake with your application, the USPTO will not refund your registration fee. For this reason, it is wise to hire a trademark attorney.
If you decide to hire an attorney to help you with your trademark filing, there are many places to find a good trademark attorney.
If you want an attorney to help you with your trademark case, you need more than just a regular trademark attorney. You need a dedicated trademark or intellectual property attorney, who is uniquely qualified to see your trademark registration or dispute through to a successful conclusion.
Your small business partners are often the best route to a great attorney. If a business successfully registers their trademark or resolves a trademark issue with the help of a trademark attorney, request contact information and make an appointment.
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Don’t assume they will be skilled or willing to help you. For example, if they specialize in a certain industry or if your case is more complex, the lawyer may refuse. But, it’s a good place to start.
Business lawyers are often invited to attend business conferences or speak at such events. If you attend a talk on IP or trademark issues, or if you meet a trademark attorney during a meet and greet, get their business card and make an appointment for a consultation afterward.
If you are accepted into the startup incubator, this is another way to find a reliable lawyer. Just remember that the application process for incubators is very competitive, and tech startups are often preferred.
State and local bar associations often have attorney search services where you can find attorneys practicing in specific areas. These include both online directories and phone numbers that you can call to get referrals to a trademark attorney.
Register Your Trademark
These days, a lot of legal help is available online. Many online legal services can match you up with a trademark attorney near you, and some will offer legal assistance on trademark matters for a small fixed fee.
Online legal services like these make it easy to get affordable legal help for almost every aspect of running your business, including trademarks. Just be sure to verify the attorney’s license and check reviews from previous clients before any attorney starts representing you.
The above is great if you have the budget for a lawyer or legal services, but you may be out of luck. Maybe you’re not profitable yet or you’re a new business trying to get off the ground. Did you know that you can get free legal aid?
Since registering a trademark is such a complicated process, various organizations provide assistance to small businesses, entrepreneurs and private individuals. If you are in a creative industry, such as music or art, free help is even more available.
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Many law schools have clinics that focus on intellectual property issues, which can be a great resource for small businesses. Law students enrolled in these clinics can file trademark applications and appear in USPTO proceedings on behalf of small clients and entrepreneurs who cannot afford the advice of an expensive attorney. The students work under the supervision of law professors or professional lawyers.
Here is a list of law schools that have IP clinics recognized by the USPTO. Remember that these are law students who don’t have much experience under their belt. If the student does not have the equipment to handle your case, the law professor or lawyer who handles the case will advise you to secure external representation.
The American Bar Association (ABA) has an online directory for small businesses looking for free legal help on trademark matters. Not all states are represented, but major states are. The directory lists attorneys and law firms that offer trademark services for free or at low cost. Some companies are more focused on helping musicians and artists. In most cases, individuals and businesses need to fall below a certain income threshold to qualify for free or reduced-cost assistance.
The International Trademark Association (INTA) Pro Bono Clearinghouse was created to help low-income individuals and nonprofits and charities with limited budgets to obtain free legal representation on trademark matters. If you can demonstrate financial need, INTA will try to match you up to a lawyer or law firm that is a member of INTA and who can help you free of charge.
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Once you’ve used the channels above to shortlist attorneys, how do you choose which trademark attorney will be the best partner for you and your business? It is important to choose wisely because getting a trademark can be a long process, taking six months to a year on average, and the process is not over even after you have secured the trademark. You or an attorney will also want to continue to monitor the trademark after that to make sure no one else is using it without your permission.
Trademark attorneys can charge around $500 to $2,000 for the full trademark application process and an additional $400-$500 if any delays or disputes arise in your case. In addition to the fees charged by the trademark attorney, you will pay several dollars in government filing fees.
Make sure your financial plan is in writing and you understand exactly what you are expected to pay. And remember, you may be able to save money by seeking pro bono legal help or by using a dedicated online legal service such as Rocket Lawyer or LegalZoom, the two options mentioned above.
Industry level knowledge can be helpful when registering a new trademark. The test of trademark eligibility is whether there is a “likelihood of confusion” between your mark and another mark. If there is a similar logo or mark used by one of the competitors, the likelihood of confusion is high. In other words, two restaurants using the same trademark are more likely to cause confusion than a restaurant and a doctor’s office using the same trademark. An attorney with in-depth knowledge of your industry, therefore, is better than someone who doesn’t know what kind of work you do.
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Additionally, if you are in a creative business, such as music, art or design, there may be different rules regarding when something qualifies as a trademark. For example, there are stricter rules for registering the name of a band or song than there are for registering a simple service or trademark.
You should ask this question of any attorney who represents you for any reason. However, a trademark application can be particularly complex and sets very specific requirements that you need to follow in order to successfully register your trademark.
Of all the parts of the trademark registration process, the part that can “make or break” your case is the trademark search. This is when a lawyer is looking for other trademarks that may be confusingly similar to yours. It is a common reason that trademark applications are rejected.
Most trademark attorneys search government records, but there are other places to search for trademarks, including storefronts, websites and “common law” databases for trademarks. Generic trademarks are trademarks that are not registered with the government, but may still receive legal protection simply because they are widely used to identify goods and services.
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The attorney general will also examine state and local business records. Make sure your trademark attorney knows how to conduct a thorough trademark search early in the registration process.
When you hire an attorney to work on your case, you are essentially hiring the rest of their team. This includes paralegals, the police, legal secretaries and business partners, all of whom may work on your case. Some attorneys offer employment opportunities to employees or attorneys, and this can lead to errors on your trademark application. Ask what kind of work will be delegated, whether the lawyer has reviewed all the work completed by the police and the secretaries, and what the lawyer will manage themselves.
Make sure the attorney will keep you updated on your progress
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