Trademarks can serve an important purpose for businesses large and small. Whether you are an international business or an independent contractor, you should consider trademarking the name of a business, product, or service. Learn how to get a trademark and how much it costs.

What Are Trademarks?

A trademark is a type of intellectual property right. It allows a company to signify that certain goods or services belong to a company or individual. The trademark also shows where the idea of that item originated. Trademarks can be applied to a wide variety of items. This includes names, designs, signs, and expressions associated with a brand. However, there have been many trademarked items that fall outside of this scope, such as scents or commercial jingles.

The purpose of a trademark is to prevent goods or services from being stolen by a potential competitor or counterfeiters. Other brands can "borrow" trademarked items with the owning company's permission, but they may not try to claim the item as their own intellectual property.

Typically, you will find trademarks on product packaging or labels. Sometimes they will also appear on company buildings. It can be identified in one of the following ways, depending on the specific nature of the trademark:

  • TM: The trademark symbol is generally used on goods. It signifies that an item belongs to a company or individual, but has not been registered with the national trademark office.
  • SM: The service mark is generally used for services. It signifies that a service belongs to a company or individual, but has not been registered with the national trademark office.
  • ®: This mark signifies that a good or service belongs to a company or individual and has been registered with the national trademark office.

Trademarking an item can accomplish many useful things, among them helping companies recoup funds lost to counterfeiters and maintain a strong brand.

How Much Does It Cost to Trademark a Name?

There are many benefits to trademarking a name. However, many companies or individuals may be hesitant to go through this process -- not just because it's potentially intimidating, but also because it comes at a cost. But how much does it actually cost to trademark a name? Is it worth the money?

How much you will need to pay to trademark a name depends on a few different factors. The government charges several fees, depending on what "level" of trademark you are interested in. Here are some of the things you'll need to take into consideration when calculating trademark cost.

Type of Form

The type of form that you need to fill out to file for your trademark will have a big effect on how much it costs to trademark a name. If you file online at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), you have the option to use one of three Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) forms:

  • Regular TEAS Form: $400.
  • TEAS Reduced Fee Form: $275.
  • TEAS Plus Form: $225.

To determine which form you need to file your specific trademark, see the USPTO website.

If you wish to file a paper form, this costs $600. It is advisable to use the TEAS forms to save on fees.

Filing Classes

To file your trademark with the federal government, you will need to file a separate form per class. Classes of goods or services cover different types of businesses, services, and goods. For example, the government has separate classes for goods and services that fall under the class of "Jewelry Products" and another class for "Clothing Products." If you wanted to file a trademark to be protected under both classes, you would need to pay to file twice. The majority of businesses file their trademark under a single class, but in some cases, it may be advisable to file under multiple classes.

Legal Fees

Hiring a lawyer that specializes in intellectual property law can make the process of trademarking a name significantly easier. They will gather all of the information they need and file your trademark for you. However, this can come at a significant cost. Usually, the lawyer will conduct a business name search to determine if the trademark you want to file will conflict with any other business' trademark. They will then provide a written recommendation on whether or not you should proceed with the filing. They can then file your claim for you. If you use a licensed trademark attorney, which is advisable, you can expect to pay anywhere between $300 to $3,000 or more in legal fees.

State Trademarks

The cheapest way to trademark a name is by filing with your state. The cost varies depending on where you live and what type of business you own. If you are a corporation or LLC, you can expect to pay less than $150 in most cases, while sole proprietors and contractors can pay anywhere between $50 to $150. While it costs less to file with your state, this kind of trademark will only provide local protection. If your business is extremely small or highly localized, this could be the best fit for you.

Why Is Trademarking a Name Important?

Trademarking a name is incredibly important -- especially if you are considering trademarking your business name. It allows your business to take ownership of its name and legally protects other businesses from using the same or similar names. This is important, particularly when it comes time to grow your business. You don't want to confuse your target market by sharing a name with another business. In fact, many banks will refuse to open a business account under a business name that is not trademarked.

Reasons to Trademark Your Name

Trademarking your name is important. While trademarking a name comes at a cost, there are many reasons to do it. The majority of the time, the benefits of having a trademark on file will far outweigh the fees you had to pay. Here are some of the reasons why trademarking a name is important:

  • Bolster Your Brand: If you have a specific trademarked name or other item associated with your company's products or services, then you are providing your company with an opportunity to grow brand recognition. You will always have the name of that product or service tied to your brand, which essentially gives you free advertising without relying solely on expensive marketing campaigns. Once your trademark has traction in a market, it can essentially self-advertise.
  • Protection From Counterfeiters: Trademarking a name of a good, service, or other item deters competitors from directly copying your special offering. It also deters counterfeiters from making money off of a name that you built. With a trademark, you are giving yourself the ability to legally pursue people who may try to copy your product or service.
  • Gives Your Brand Room to Grow: Though you may be a sole proprietor or smaller company now, getting a trademark gives your brand room to grow while still maintaining the special products or services that give you a competitive advantage or set your brand apart.