When a business wants to register a name, symbol, phrase, or design for exclusive use by the business, the business must apply for a trademark. The laws and procedures to trademark a business will vary by jurisdiction. Within the U.S., the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is responsible for the process involved to trademark a business. Within the European Union, an applicant must apply to trademark a business to the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM). The general procedure for registering a trademark involves a lengthy application, review by the appropriate legal counsel, and an opportunity for opposition to the registration.
The idea behind a trademark is that consumers will identify the business with the name, phrase, symbol, or design. Although many business names are well-known, symbols or catch phrases are often even more well-known. For example, many clothing manufacturers choose to trademark a business by applying for a symbol that can then be imprinted on the clothing manufactured by the business, making recognition of the business more universal. Once a trademark is registered, no one but the owner of the trademark may use it in any way without facing legal consequences.
Since the concept of a trademark is that it is unique to the business, the first thing that must be done before applying for a trademark is to check whether someone else has the same or similar trademark. A search can be conducted, as a rule, through the website of the government office in charge of registering patents. Within the United States, a search may be conducted on the USPTO website, while, in the European Union, the OHIM provides an easy search option.
Once a business has determined that the trademark sought has not already been registered, it must apply for a trademark. The process to trademark a business can take well over a year in many cases and will require a number of fees along the way. A detailed application must be submitted to the appropriate office for review by their legal counsel to determine that the application meets all the legal requirements. If there is an issue with the legal or procedural requirements, then the applicant is generally given the opportunity to correct the issue and re-submit the application.
Once the application has passed through the legal review, then it must be published in order to give other businesses or individuals the opportunity to object to the registration. If no objection is submitted, then the trademark will be registered within a short time thereafter. If an objection is filed, then the applicant will be given the opportunity to defend the application.