Yes, you need a registered trademark to get brand registered on Amazon (unless you act on what I’ll show you later) and get access to awesome brand registry tools.
Enforcing a trademark also protects your brand from potential hijackers.
The unfortunate reality of selling online is that when you’re successful there are going to be hijackers who try to steal your hard work. They sell on your listing or even pose as you and steal your sales.
Today I’m going to give you 9 steps on how to get a trademark so you can get your brand registered on Amazon and protect yourself from potential hijackers.
Step 1: Decide Whether You Need a Trademark.
Getting a trademark right away is not for everyone. A trademark is not essential to build a profitable online business, even on Amazon. Having a trademark comes with legal advantages, but that doesn’t mean it’s absolutely necessary if now is not the right time for you.
We walk you through all the benefits of having a trademark, as well as reasons you don’t necessarily need one, in our Amazon FBA membership.
Now, say you do want a trademark right away. Depending on which method you choose, trademarks can range from inexpensive to costly. I will teach you exactly what those four methods are.
But first, if you are going to trademark, you must decide what part of your brand you will trademark.
Step 2: Decide What ‘Mark’ to Trademark.
Marks refer to the different, trademarkable, parts of your brand and brand name. There’s a lot of confusion about marks, so let’s break down the three types clearly:
- Your brand name is your word mark.
- Your logo is your design mark.
- Your slogan is your tagline.
Nike is a perfect example of a brand with all three well known types of marks. They have their slogan—“Just do it”—they have their logo—the SWOOSH—and they have the word Nike—N-I-K-E.
We recommend you trademark your word mark, your brand name. All three are trademarkable, but the most important one is the word mark. For example, you would trademark “McGee Giggles” if that’s your brand name.
Why is this important?
Logos tend to change over time, whereas brand names don’t. You may have noticed that Just One Dime’s logo has changed over time, but the name has remained “Just One Dime”.
And we are trademarked across the entire European Union, Canada, the US, and other places around the world.
When you trademark your brand name (word mark), you’re going to get it trademarked in ALL CAPS. For example, if your brand is “McGee Giggles”, you will trademark it as “MCGEE GIGGLES”. Sure, in normal writing, and probably on your product’s retail packaging, you will use “McGee Giggles” with only three capitalized letters. But when you trademark it, you will trademark all the letters in capital.
If you don’t trademark your name in all caps, then only the version that you trademark will be protected. But if you trademark in all caps, your name is also protected if you use lowercase or any combination of the two.
So we suggest you trademark your word mark first if you get your design mark or tagline trademarked at all. You can get those other things trademarked later if you want. But word mark is the most important one; it’s the one Amazon needs for brand registry.
Step 3: Come Up With a Trademarkable Brand Name.
There are two things to consider when you choose your brand name.
First, choose a defendable brand name.
What makes a name defendable?
There’s an entire spectrum of brand name types. Some types are much more trademarkable and defendable than others.
At the beginning of the spectrum you have descriptive brand names. Descriptive brand names directly describe their products which makes them difficult to get trademarked. A great example of a descriptive brand name is KitchenAid: the name describes their own products. KitchenAid aside, descriptive names are the least trademarkable. The USPTO will most likely deny a descriptive name request because descriptive names tend to be more common, everyday terms that many sellers in the industry would need to use.
In the middle, you have suggestive brand names. Suggestive brand names allude to their products, but they’re not nearly as explicit as descriptive names. A great example of a suggestive brand name is Ray-Ban: their products ban the sun, Ray-Ban sunglasses. That's a little more trademarkable, but less descriptive and direct.
Finally, you have fanciful brand names. A great example of a fanciful brand name is Kodak. Fanciful brand names have the most trademark defendability because they do not sound like or allude to their products at all. They could be a random word, a point of geography, a foreign language term, or even a person’s name like in our example, “McGee Giggles”.
The more fanciful and arbitrary a brand name is, the more likely it will be accepted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Second, choose a unique brand name.
You may be wondering, “How can I choose a unique name?”
To come up with a unique brand name, you can get ideas from a name generator site like Namelix.com.
Search your main product keyword, for example “toys”. Click Generate.
Select your name length. Click Next.
Select Brandable names as your name style. Click Generate.
Now you have a ton of unique name ideas: “kitem”, “candise”, “chicket”, “comperks”, etc.
Namelix can give you ideas on how to pick a name that fits the theme, vision, and heart of your company…as long as the brand name is not already taken.
Step 4: Conduct a High Level Search for the Brand Name.
A high level search checks to see if anyone is already using your brand name in the same product category. This is also known as a “knockout search”.
One of my favorite tools for this step is KnowEm, which checks to see if social media handles and website domains are taken.
For example, if your potential brand name is “McGee Giggles”, search that name, “McGeeGiggles” (no spaces), to see if and where that name is already in-use.
This allows you to check that no one else is selling in your product category with that name. You should also search similar sounding names, or misspellings of your name, just to be certain.
With just a glance, you can see which social media handles and web domains are available and which aren’t:
Once you know where your potential name is being used, you can follow up with those social media accounts and websites to make sure you are free to sell under that name. You go to those sites and search that name, “McGeeGiggles”, to see if the account using it is selling products in your same category, selling products in a different category, or not selling anything at all.
For example, KnowEm shows that “McGeeGiggles” is taken on Instagram. So, we need to check Instagram for “@McGeeGiggles”.
Yes, @McGeeGiggles is taken on Instagram, but it does not appear that this user is selling products in my category:
Repeat this for all sites where your brand name appears to be taken.
The second part of our high-level search is a query with USPTO for conflicting trademarks.
To do this, visit USPTO.gov. Hover over “Trademarks” in the right hand menu and select “TESS Search Our Trademark Database”.
Select “Basic Word Mark Search (New User)”.
Leave all options as they are. Type in your potential brand name.
Click “Submit Query”.
You should also search for any misspellings or similar sounding names. Remember, customer confusion can still happen with similar sounding names. If there is confusion, there are grounds for a dispute.
Your USPTO search will only show you if a name has been trademarked. It will not definitively tell you if another brand actively uses that name, or something similar, to sell in your product category.
If your name does not appear in the TESS search results, your screen will look like this:
This does not guarantee no one is using your brand name to sell products in the category you want to sell in. But a knockout search has always uncovered potential problems with other sellers using the brand name I wanted in all my years selling online.
Step 5: Decide Whether You Will Trademark With ‘Intent to Use’ or ‘In-Use’.
Now you’re confident your brand name is defendable and that no one else uses it for the same product category you are, you must decide: whether you will file with ‘Intent to Use’ or ‘In-Use’.
What’s the difference?
‘Intent to Use’ means you don’t currently use the brand name, but you intend to use it in the near future. This option will take longer and cost more than ‘In-Use’.
In fact, filing with ‘Intent to Use’ will take six months longer on average. There’s a six month period—called a Notice of Allowance—where you can start using your brand name before you must send proof to the USPTO that you now use and sell under that name.
Now, even if you aren’t ready to sell under your brand name yet, you can still file with the second—faster and lower cost—option.
‘In-Use’ means you already sell under your brand name. If you file as ‘In-Use’ you can forgo the Notice of Allowance, so you can usually get your trademark faster if you apply this way.
For this option, all you have to do is open a simple Shopify website. It’s low cost and easy to use. All you need to set up your site is your logo, your brand name, and a listing for one product. The product doesn’t even have to be buyable yet. Just add it so you have a product listing and add a picture that proves the product is yours. When you begin your Amazon store, make sure you always use that exact same brand name.
In other words, even if you’re not using “McGee Giggles” yet, you can still file as ‘In-Use’.
As an additional measure, put ™ right after your brand name in superscript. This tells the world that you intend to trademark this brand name. Once you are registered as a trademark, you can change the ™ to ®.
Filing as ‘In-Use’ is a strong move because it not only saves you money, it also shaves about six months off the trademark process.
You can go either way, but I recommend ‘In-Use’. You just need to demonstrate proof that you have started using your brand name.
Step 6: Choose One of the Four Ways to Trademark.
Option #1: File for your trademark yourself.
There is too much involved in trademarking for me to show you the whole process, but I’ll help you get started.
If you want us to teach you in-depth how to file your own trademark, visit JOD.com/freedom where you can apply to have us work with and teach you how to do all of this yourself.
To get started, go to USPTO.gov. At the top, there’s a section that reads “Trademarks”. Hover over it and choose “Apply Online”.
Follow the process, and an examiner from the USPTO will work with you and tell you what the next steps are.
Keep in mind, you pay for your trademark per classification. If you sell toys and gifts, you need to be classified in Toys and Sporting Goods, but you might also add on a couple other classifications that would also fit your brand.
As a general rule, when companies get a trademark for a particular product, they will usually pick two to three classes. If you sell leather golf gloves, you might file in the Sporting Goods classification, but also in Leather Goods, because the product applies to both.
If another brand wanted to sell leather bags under your name, or a name similar to yours, this could cause confusion because you would then both sell leather products. So, you should get a trademark in both classifications to prevent this scenario.
Each classification costs a minimum of $250, so you will pay at least $250 if you apply for the trademark yourself. This is the least costly option, but it’s also the most prone to missteps.
You might make a mistake in filling out the application or when the USPTO examiner requests that you fill out an additional form or answer a specific question. Additionally, sometimes the examiners will use legalese (law terminology) which a lot of sellers are not familiar with.
Now, you can definitely get your trademark this way, especially if you’re short on funds. I’ve done this myself, it will take more time. However, if you don’t have a lot of money, but you want your trademark ASAP, and you have time on your hands, use this method. Just proceed meticulously.
Option #2: Hire a service to file your trademark for you.
There are plenty of legal services available that will help you file your trademark. LegalZoom is an excellent example.
LegalZoom costs an additional $250 to $500 on top of USPTO’s $250 per classification fee.
The risk in applying for your trademark with a legal service is a little less than if you apply yourself. LegalZoom contractors are lawyers, so if your USPTO examiner asks legal questions, they can answer them correctly.
But there is still a fair amount of risk. Trademark law is not LegalZoom’s or any other general legal service’s specialty. This is not the main thing they do. Therefore your risk is still medium-high.
LegalZoom is built to scale, so their service will be more automated and less personal than hiring a lawyer. They want to get you in and out as quickly as possible.
Option #3: Hire a trademark lawyer.
This is the most expensive option. If you hire a lawyer, it will cost you around $1,000, maybe up to $1,500, for the lawyer, alone. This is, of course, in addition to USPTO’s $250 per classification fee.
A trademark lawyer is the best option for you if you have more capital than time and you want the expertise and customer service that comes with a trademark attorney.
And remember, if you don’t have the funds for this option yet, but you prefer it, you can hold on applying for your trademark. Instead, launch your product and wait for your sales to fund the legal fees.
Option #4: Use Amazon IP Accelerator.
Amazon IP Accelerator is the best method if you want to get brand registered fast. When you go the IP Accelerator route, you will work with a trademark attorney. You get all the safety of a trademark attorney for about the same cost as hiring one who is not associated with IP Accelerator. And IP Accelerator comes with added benefits.
I have done this method, and it works great!
For this option, visit Amazon’s IP Accelerator Brand Services page on Seller Central. Click “Get Started”.
Then you get to shop for the best trademark attorney you can find to get your trademark. You will select one to file your trademark for you.
In my experience, the best move is to find an attorney who has at least a 4.3 star rating, but doesn't have a ton of reviews. If they have a lot of reviews, their response might take forever because they’re busy.
But if they have good ratings and not as many reviews, they’re hungry for business and have a lot of incentive to do a great job for you.
All you have to do is select the law service you will use and go through their application process.
What I love about this service is that these lawyers already understand Amazon. They know brand registry. So they can tell you everything you should know and all you do is answer “yes”, “no”, “what do you think”, etc., and you’re done.
What’s wild is that with Amazon IP Accelerator, you can become brand registered before your trademark is approved by the USPTO. You apply and then you get brand registered in as fast as a few weeks before you’ve received your trademark or even before you’ve sold a single product. It works!
Now, your lawyer will need proof that you’re selling a product, so they will probably suggest that you open a Shopify website, add a product, and show that it’s for sale and buyable. As long as your Shopify website doesn’t show up in the first couple pages of Google Search results, no one will try and buy your product there.
Once you prove that you’re selling under your brand name, you can become brand registered and get all the advantages of Amazon’s brand registry!
Step 7: Monitor Your Trademark Application.
Once your trademark application has been submitted, you must monitor its status as it goes through the process. Now, this process can take up to 18 months, although it’s usually between 8 and 11 months for me.
The USPTO will assign an examiner who will review your application and examine potentially thousands of marks to make sure no one else has any mark that could be confused with yours in the same product category.
Oftentimes, the examiner will require you to make some corrections on your mark or add additional proof that you are the rightful user of this mark. Ensure you respond to any communication you receive from your examiner within the allotted time frame, otherwise they might cancel your application in which case you must start all over again (by the way, your $250 per class application fees are non-refundable).
Step 8: Receive Your Trademark.
If everything goes according to plan and the examiner finds no conflicts of interest for your trademark, they will publish it in the Official Gazette, the USPTO’s weekly trademark publication.
If another party believes the mark infringes on their trademark, they have 30 days from your mark’s publication date to file an objection and apply for an extension so they have more time to oppose it.
It’s not likely that your trademark will be contested, but the USPTO isn’t perfect. There is a chance that they may overlook a similar brand trademark in your same classifications.
If no one contests your trademark during its time in the Official Gazette, you are registered!
Step 9: Enforce Your Trademark.
Congratulations! You’ve received your trademark and can more easily protect your brand from potential hijackers.
Now that you are trademark registered, you must enforce your trademark. To enforce your trademark means to make sure no competitor uses your brand name or a brand name that could be confused as the same name as yours.
This is entirely on you.
The USPTO and other national government offices where you register your trademark do not enforce your trademark for you. After you’re published, they’re out.
This means you must determine if hijackers, or even another seller who just hasn’t done any research, sell under your name. It’s your responsibility.
If this sounds like a big time suck, it’s not. Realistically, you can stay on top of this with just a few searches a month. Just be diligent.
You’ve already applied, paid, and waited for your trademark. Don’t let that effort go to waste by not enforcing your trademark!
That’s it, you’re trademarked. Now go out and sell with the legal protection that your trademark affords your brand.
I would love to know, of these four options, which one are you going to use for your trademark?