Last Thursday, I got an email from my trademark attorney saying that ‘Table for Two’ was officially a registered mark. It took about 8 months from start to finish, but it was well-worth it. Since then, a bunch of you have asked me what the process is and how it all works. Well, hopefully this post will help you out!
**Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that I’m in no way, shape, or form a legal lawyer. This is all from my own personal experience and of course, I may be incorrect on some of this information. I highly suggest you do some research yourself before getting into the whole trademarking process, or even talk to a local attorney specializing in trademarks. I cannot be held liable for the validity of this information. Laws change all the time. I’m just documenting my experience and trying to help out those interested in trademarking their name.
First, if you haven’t done so already, I would make your blog business a LLC. I wrote a blog post on that and you can read it right here. I explain in there why you should and trademarking is the next step (or in my case, that’s what I wanted to do).
About a year ago, I decided I wanted to trademark my blog name, Table for Two. I wanted to trademark it for several reasons:
- I wanted to protect my blog name so that no other competing companies in the recipe development/food blog industry could take ownership of it or have anything similar. I wanted to be unique and the only ‘Table for Two.’
- I wanted to prevent the confusion that could occur if multiple companies used the same or similar business names and/or logos.
- I wanted to declare exclusive rights to my name.
- Since I started blogging three years ago, Table for Two has become fairly well-known. It’s a wonderful thing, but once you become well-known, there are people out there that want to take that away from you. Someone might try to use my company’s reputation for its own benefits. I wanted to protect that and prevent it from happening. If they tried to use my company’s name, they could use it in the wrong way and actually cause defamation to my brand and everything I built it up to be.
A lot of this kind of sounds selfish, I know, but you have to be selfish when it comes to your business and your brand. You spend countless hours developing recipes, photographing them, working with companies/brands…why should someone take all your hardwork from you in a blink of an eye?
So, there are a few ways to go about trademarking your name. You can either:
- Do it yourself on LegalZoom (I do not recommend this),
- Do it yourself on the USPTO’s website (I do not recommend this),
- Or you can hire a trademark attorney and have them take care of it for you.
I went with option #3 and this was a personal decision. You may disagree with this if you’ve already filed one yourself, but I wanted to be safe and ensure that I was doing everything correctly, so spending a few hundred dollars more was way worth it to me than to file, lose money, and have to spend more money to re-file.
I hired a trademark attorney because there are various steps that you need to do before you file to register to trademark your name. By hiring a trademark attorney, I knew this would get done correctly because they specialize in this. They know what they’re doing! You may not. There’s also different classes you can file for for your mark. I didn’t want to mess that up. To file, it costs $275 per class application fee. If your application gets rejected because you filed wrong or missed something, you don’t get that money back. Risky, huh?
My trademark attorney did the following for me:
- Did an Internet search to see how many other similar businesses had my name,
- A USPTO Trademark search to see if any one with the same name already registered their name,
- A distinctiveness evaluation,
- The actual application,
- And any non-adversarial office actions from the USPTO, meaning, he’d take care of the questions, mailings, etc., from the USPTO if they had any.
However, if someone were to challenge my application or if the USPTO rejected my application, it would need to be appealed and he’d take care of that for me, but that would be an additional fee. BUT with the research he does before filing should give you a really good idea of whether or not someone would challenge it or not, or if the USPTO would reject it.
After I agreed to the fee/contract, my trademark attorney did his initial research and found on the USPTO Trademark search that my mark is distinctive enough to be registered, but on the Internet search, he said there were many cooking and food blogs using the name ‘Table for Two.’ He mentioned that most were started before my blog but none of them have registered their mark with the USPTO which is good because it means they won’t block my registration BUT it also means they might have priority over my mark, meaning they might be able to prevent me from using my mark in the state in which they operate their blog and possible other areas as well. In layman’s term: if someone in Nebraska had a blog that was called Table for Two, I wouldn’t be able to take them down for use of my mark because they were created before me. Or at least this is how I understood it.
Anyway, so after I agreed to his findings and whether or not I wanted to proceed (which obviously I agreed), he filed the application and then the waiting process began. He says it typically takes about 2-3 months for the USPTO to review your application and after that, if there are no office actions, they publish your trademark application for review for I think 60 days (don’t quote me on this). This means, they publish your trademark publicly for anyone to view it and if someone opposes it, then you’d have to appeal it. If no one opposes it, the mark will be registered in about 3 1/2 months.
Thankfully, mine went through with no issues and as of October 22nd, 2013, my mark was officially registered!
There are ongoing fees with trademarks but they aren’t annually. When you or your attorney get the actual registration in the mail, the basic maintenance fees are after 5 years, 10 years, and every 10 years after that. Trademarks are good for as long as you use the mark and the registration is good for as long as you keep up the maintenance fees.
Just as a point of reference and something I learned through this process: ™ is used for an unregistered trademark. You can use use it while your mark is being applied for/registered. Only after it is OFFICIALLY registered, can you use the ® symbol! If you check out my logo, you can see the little ® symbol by the name now :) my trademark attorney said that I can use the registration mark “anywhere you use the ‘Table for Two’ mark to identify your brand.”
My trademark attorney’s name is Stephen Burch (big thanks to Julie of The Little Kitchen for the referral). At the time, his flat fee for this trademark process was $500. Total, I spent $775 for the entire trademark process ($500 attorney fee + $275 application filing fee). Well worth it :)
Please let me know if you have any questions and I will try my best to answer them to the best of my knowledge. I’m definitely not a pro at this but I can try to help if it’s something I’ve gone through.