How soon after I have an idea should I trademark my intellectual property?
UPDATED: December 17, 2019
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You should register a trademark or business name as soon as possible after you conceive the idea for the trademark. For many years it was necessary to first make a bona fide commercial use in interstate commerce of the name or mark before you were able to register a trademark. Only after you made such use could you file for trademark or name registration.
Changes in U.S. trademark law also permit you to file on the basis of "intent to use" and to maintain that application for up to three years. However, to register a trademark, an applicant must still prove that use has occurred. If you can make legitimate bona fide use, such use will always be preferable to filing an "intent to use" application, but whatever can be done first should be done immediately.
Investing Money into a Trademark Before Registering
It is also advisable to register a trademark as soon as you have taken any financial actions with regard to developing or using the trademark. For instance, a trademark should be filed immediately if you have created packaging labels, stationary or business cards with the trademark in place. Also, if you have conducted any research into your proposed trademark you should register it immediately, given that most research requires some public knowledge. Finally, if you filed a business using your trademark as the name, you should also file the trademark at the same time. All of these constitute bona fide uses for which action should be taken.
Importance of Using Your Registered Trademark
Once you register a trademark, whether you are ready to use it or not, it is important that you do find some means of utilizing it. Use of the name is important because any business interested in using your trademark will begin counting down the days if the trademark remains unused. According to federal trademark law, a mark is presumed dead after three years of non-use. In other words, you have three years from the time you register a trademark to find a commercial use for it or it will die and anyone can freely pick up the mark.
If you are having trouble finding a use for your new trademark, but you think the mark is marketable, you may want to consider the possibility of licensing the trademark out to an interested business. If you feel the trademark applies directly to a certain type of business you can even take some active measures by proposing your idea to local companies.
Getting Help With a Trademark
If you are planning to trademark your intellectual property and want to learn more about how to register a trademark and use it, consult with a trademark attorney or log onto the United States Patent and Trademark Office website.