Trademark Registration Process
The USPTO encourages applicants to file applications electronically through the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) but there is also the option of filing a paper application. After the application is filed, the PTO recommends that the applicant check the status of the application every 3 to 4 months using the Trademark Applications and Registration Retrieval (TARR) database, and all of the USPTO’s actions may be made using the Trademark Document Retrieval (TDR) database. It may take a year or several years for the application to proceed and for the trademark to be registered. Three months after filing the application, the application is assigned to an examining attorney. The examining attorney may send a letter (an office action) explaining any reasons for refusing registration or to resolve any problems. The applicant must respond within six months of receiving an office action, otherwise registration will be conclusively denied registration and the filing fee will not be refunded. Then, the examining attorney approves the mark for publication in the Official Gazette (OG), a weekly online publication, after all problems or issues have been resolved. After the date of publication, there is a 30-day period where another party may object to the trademark by filing an opposition, which is similar to a court proceeding. If no opposition has been filed or the applicant succeeds in the opposition, then the USPTO will most likely issue a registration certificate about twelve weeks after publication for “use in commerce” or foreign/international registration based applications.
As for applications with a bona fide “intent to use” basis, a Notice of Allowance (NOA) will be issued about eight weeks after publication if there was no opposition or the applicant prevailed in the opposition hearing. A NOA does not mean that the trademark is registered, rather the notice gives an applicant the time (six months) to begin using the mark in commerce and file a “statement of use”. If the applicant is not ready to begin using the mark in commerce, then they may file for an Extension of Time to File a Statement to give them extra time. Basically, to register a trademark, the mark must be used in commerce, so it is advisable to at least have a business plan to use the mark in the near future when first filing the application.