Trademark, Servicemark and Registered

You want to protect a name that you create for yourself. The way to do this is with a trademark (TM), servicemark (SM) or registered mark (the R in a circle).

Trademark and Servicemark
You can always use a TM or SM (put in the top right of your name/logo) for a name you create, as long as it isn't owned by another person. You can't call yourself Amazon and run a bookstore for example. That name is already taken for that profession. Usually a name can only be used for the particular business it's in - that is, there can be a Levi's Jeans (clothing) and a Levi's Pizza without any problem. The law assumes that people will not confuse those two sets of products.

A trademark is for selling items - clothing, motorcycles, etc. A servicemark is for selling a service - a cleaning service, a legal service, etc. Most website providers / content are services.

State Registration of TM and SM
Many if not all states will let you "officially" register your TM or SM for a relatively low fee - say $50 for 10 years. You don't need to do this, it is simply setting down on paper what you have done above. However, if you're worried about someone stealing your name, sometimes it's a little extra bit of assurance that you're set. It gives you some support in any court case that might come up, that you took the trouble to take that step and that it was legally on file.

What Can you Trademark?
You cannot trademark / register a common word or phrase in most instances. You cannot trademark the word "apple" for your round, red fruit and prevent all others from calling their round, red fruits "apples". The word being trademarked must be very specific and unique.

Registered Mark
A registered mark is a FEDERAL registration of your name. In essence having a registered mark, or (R), means that you have spent the cash and time to actually legally register that logo and/or name. It's just under $400 to file. You can ONLY used the registered mark if you have fully gotten approval from the US government. Their form can be found here -


It can easily take over a year for a registered mark to go through all of the paperwork necessary, and when you register it must be for a very specific industry area. You can't own the word "Apple" for every single use on the planet. When you file to own Apple, you can only file for a specific target area - "computer hardware", say. If you want to have your registered mark cover many areas, you have to typically file separate paperwork (with separate fees) for each one.

Note that when you file for a registered mark, there is a period of time where other companies can come forward and contest your application. Then it turns into a legal fight between you and this other company, about whether or not your application is a valid one.

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