Trademarks are an essential tool for protecting your company's words, phrases, symbols, and logos from unauthorized use in the marketplace.
Without a trademark, a competitor or aspiring startup could exploit your branded content to tap into your customer base. In some cases, they could even damage your brand by using your mark in a negative manner.
With so much at stake, most businesses are interested in securing full trademark protection as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, that's not how trademarks work. Although you may be able to secure a certain amount of trademark protection instantaneously, comprehensive trademark protection takes months or even years.
As a general rule, trademark time requirements increase proportionately with the amount of protection you are seeking to acquire. Since a bungled trademark process will result in further delays, the first step in reducing the amount of time it takes to obtain a trademark is to hire qualified legal counsel. After you've cleared that hurdle, here are some of the waiting periods you can expect to experience when securing various levels of trademark protection.
A simple trademark works much like a copyright. You aren't required to register a trademark in order to gain basic legal protection. However, the enforceability of unregistered (or common law) trademarks is limited to your immediate geographic area – and that could be a real problem if your business plan includes opportunities for geographic expansion.
State Trademark Registration
The next level of trademark protection involves registering your trademark with the appropriate state governmental agency. If your mark isn't involved in interstate commerce, state registration is your only option. Although the waiting period is only about a year, your trademark protection is limited to your state. If possible, a better approach may be to establish some form of approved interstate commerce so you can register your trademark at the federal level instead of the state-level.
Federal Trademark Registration
Federal trademark registration with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) offers the highest level of protection for your mark. However, the registration process is long and complex. It's not uncommon for a USPTO trademark registration to take several years, depending on the scope of your application and the amount of opposition you encounter during the registration process.