How do you save money and avoid problems long term?
By not being penny wise and pound foolish. Trademark law is clearly an area of the law where it pays to spend the money to do it right the first time. Move fast! Get the trademark search and filing done quickly, particularly if you feel the name has "magic" to it. Your competitors have similar ideas and they may be moving faster. Have a back-up mark ready.
An intellectual property attorney is not required for filing a trademark, however, an attorney can help you in the long run. If you would like to run the search and file the paperwork yourself, you can do so online at the United States Patent & Trademark Office.
Once your trademark is approved, you have to use it. In fact, one of the conditions for your trademark to remain protected is that it must be in circulation. In addition, you will have to pay regular maintenance fees for continued protection. There is no limitation on how long a trademark can last, so as long as you keep using it and paying the fees, you are protected.
It is also best to keep your mark a secret. Until the mark is approved, it is fair game for anyone else to apply with a similar symbol. In fact, given the difficulty required for even creating a trademark in the first place, it is highly likely that similar trademarks may be submitted simultaneously. As a general rule, do not show or tell anyone else about your trademark until the trademark approval comes back from the Trademark Office.
If you run a trademark search and discover your mark is already taken, then you must go back to the drawing board. This is why it is always best to have a back-up mark ready. In addition, avoid printing any packaging with the new trademark until you receive your approval.