Image courtesy: Kazuhisa OTSUBO via FlickrAs a trademark owner, you may wonder whether it is possible for you to register trademarks without an attorney. You will be happy to hear that the answer is yes, although, as with all things legal, it is important to understand some of the basics in order to avoid more costly legal assistance down the road.

Electronic Filing System
The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) maintains an electronic filing system for trademarks known as the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS), making it much more accessible to the average person than the old paper filing system. You can find it here.

Before You Begin
Before beginning the process, it is important you have detailed the exact trademark you wish to register as well as an exhaustive list of goods and services for which the mark is used or will be used in the future. As with all governmental agencies, the USPTO has its own language when it comes to recitations of goods and services and maintains a database of that terminology to help you. You must use the generic term for the good/service and, in some cases, it is necessary to describe exactly what is being covered by the trademark application. For example, if you have a software product, you must recite what the software does––it is not enough to recite "computer software." Also, be sure not to recite other people's registered trademarks in your goods and services. For instance, "Frisbee" is a registered trademark; if you sell such goods under your trademark, the proper way to recite it in the goods description would be to say "flying discs."

Maintaining Records
If you decide to file your own application(s), be sure to print out a copy of the application for your records. Down the road, when the application is examined, it may be necessary to refer back to your original filing. If you forget, however, don't worry. The USPTO enters all newly filed applications into its public database within a few days of filing. However, since mistakes do get made and things do get lost, it is best to maintain your own records should you need to reconstruct anything later on.

While filing your own trademark applications may seem a bit intimidating at first, the truth is that almost any mistake can be fixed down the road without too much bother. The USPTO has taken strides over the past decade to make the process more user-friendly for the trademark owner. Trademark Examiners want to help applicants through the process. So, as long as you do some legwork beforehand you should be well on your way to registering your own trademarks.

Registering your trademarks is an important aspect of your intellectual property (IP) strategy, but it is also important to identify all of your IP. See what risk your putting your business at by ignoring your IP.

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