If you come up with and publish a new brand name or logo — and you’ve used the appropriate processes to file for a business license and register your business — you are afforded some legal protection already. You might also have some copyright protection related to your design or creation. One way to add to your legal protection and keep other people from using your brand or phrase without impunity is to trademark it.

Many people mistakenly believe that you can simply complete a form for a trademark. In reality, it’s a complex process that requires strict adherence to all requirements and deadlines. You have to identify the type of design you are trademarking, complete an application and submit drawings or examples. You also have to respond to any additional requests for information or modifications in the right timeline.

The process is not cheap. Simply filing the forms can cost more than $500 — a fee you forfeit completely if you do any step wrong. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office actually recommends that you work with a business and trademark lawyer for this reason.

You usually can’t trademark something you just thought of. Part of the trademark process is proving that you have used the image, design or phrase in the marketplace for a certain amount of time. If you’re just launching your business, that might take trademark considerations off the table for a while. However, you want to make sure you do everything you can to protect your brand until you can trademark it. Working with a lawyer to set up your business can help you do this.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office, “Trademark basics,” accessed Nov. 04, 2016