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Entrepreneur: Trademarks and Patents

State and Federal Registration


What's a Trademark?
A trademark is a symbol, word, or expression that’s legally registered or established to represent a company, service or product. You can apply for a trademark through your state or federal government. Here’s some things to consider:


(1) Using a TM (trademark) or SM (service mark) is traditionally called a common law trademark. They are not officially registered by a state or federal government entity, so there is less legal protection against infringement since there is a greater burden of proof in showing that you are the legal owner of the trademark. [Infringement: Someone else using your trademark for their profit and/or identification without your permission]


(2) Registered trademarks through your state only protect you from infringement within your state. Federal trademarks offer protection from anyone in any U.S. state or territory. However, if your business services or products are exclusive to your region, you may decide that state trademark registration is sufficient. State trademark application fees are $20-$100, which is much less than federal trademarks fees that cost more than $1,000.   

(3) Applying for a trademark doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be given approval for one.  
Click for "Grounds for Refusal of a Trademark" by Legal Zoom

How Do I Get a Trademark?

You can apply for a trademark through a private lawyer; through paid legal services companies (such as Legal Zoom, etc. ); or you can apply for it yourself. 


The state agency/department that handles trademarks varies with each state. The federal agency is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. 

Click for info on your State's Trademark Authority 

Click for info on a Federal Trademark thru the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office


What's a Patent?

Patents are a type of legal protection that prevents others from “making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing an invention for a limited time.”
Click here for answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Patents at



How Do You Get a Patent? 

Unlike some trademarks that can be obtained and registered regionally through the state government, patents are only issued by the federal government through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. To apply for a patent, you can hire a private attorney; go through a legal services company (such as LegalZoom or Invent Help); or file the application yourself.

Click here for info on getting a Patent thru the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

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