Alright, let’s talk about how you actually *get* a trademark.

You might be thinking that getting a trademark is a long and complicated process. You may have heard that you need to file certain paperwork. And how does having your website, LLC, or business license fit into all of this?

Well I’ve got good news for you.

You probably already have some trademark rights!

Getting trademark rights is … super easy? Wait, really?

You don’t actually have to file anything. And you don’t even need a website or formal business set up.

In fact, you probably *already have* trademark rights! You only need to do ONE thing to have trademark: use the dang thing.

That’s right. Just by using your trademark in commerce, you *automatically* have trademark rights. Congrats — you’ve already got yourself some trademark rights!

(Note: If you’re really interested in nerding out over this stuff, see the box below to geek out a bit more on trademark law.)

And that’s not all.

Without doing anything else, you get to use the TM symbol next to your business name. Seriously, go ahead and copy this — ™ — and then paste it at the end of your business name.

But here’s the bad news.

ThEse automatic rights are weak.

Like, super weak.

You only get exclusive rights in your geographic area. That means someone across the country — or even on the other side of your state — could start using your business name or something similar. And if that happens, there’s not much you could do about it.

Eventually (ideally as soon as possible), you’ll want to beef up those rights. And the way you do that is with a registration. Click below to learn more.

Advanced Trademark Tips

  • Lots of things can be trademarks. For the purposes of this article, I talk about business names as trademarks. Other things can be trademarks — like logos, slogans, product lines, etc. For MOST business owners, though, the business name is the most valuable trademark that you want to protect first.
  • The technical definition of a trademark. “A trademark is a brand name. A trademark or service mark includes any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used or intended to be used to identify and distinguish the goods/services of one seller or provider from those of others, and to indicate the source of the goods/services.” (That’s straight from uspto.gov)
  • A trademark is not a verb. I often hear people say, “Hey I need to trademark my business name!” Or, “Can I trademark [insert made up word here].” Or, “You better get that trademarked!” While talking about trademarks in this way has become really normal (and even I fall into it every now and then), it causes a lot of confusion. Like you just read about, you don’t really *get* a trademark or *have* something trademarked. Instead, the name of the game is securing a federal registration to protect your trademark rights.
  • Show some love for the ℠ symbol. Technically, if you sell a service, you have a service mark. If you want to be proper and technical, you can use the little ℠ instead of the little ™.