True words, Pearl Bailey, but when it comes to trademarks, paperwork is the fuel that keeps the trademark machine running.
I'll devote a few posts to the different types of filings the USPTO requires. That being said, let's start at the beginning.
Trademark/Servicemark Application, Principal Register:
"Use this form to file an initial application for either a TRADEMARK for "goods" AND/OR a SERVICEMARK for "providing services" -- this form is appropriate for both."
As the USPTO does, we'll use the term trademark to denote both types of marks. When applying for registration for your trademark, this is the application you'll start with.
Provided within quotes is straight from the USPTO & my explanations are underneath. Within this application, there are two routes you can go:
1) Use in Commerce
"For the purpose of obtaining federal registration, 'commerce' means all commerce that the U.S. Congress may lawfully regulate; for example, interstate commerce or commerce between the U.S. and another country. 'Use in commerce' must be a bona fide use of the mark in the ordinary course of trade, and not use simply made to reserve rights in the mark."
Basically, this means that if you're claiming the mark is in use in commerce, you're telling the USPTO that the mark is actually being used either across state lines or between the US & another country.
This is a point of confusion for many folks we talk to so let's break this down a bit. Getting your DBA, incorporation, LLC, etc. or obtaining a domain name DOES NOT qualify as use in commerce. Making a sale in at least 2 states DOES qualify as use in commerce.
"Generally, acceptable use is as follows:
For goods: the mark must appear on the goods, the container for the goods, or displays associated with the goods, and the goods must be sold or transported in commerce.
For services: the mark must be used or displayed in the sale or advertising of the services, and the services must be rendered in commerce. If you have already started using the mark in commerce, you may file based on that use."
This was discussed in detail in my post about specimens - read further here.
2) Intent to Use
"Applicants who have not yet used (in commerce that can be regulated by Congress) the mark they wish to register may file a trademark application under this filing basis."
This one's easy to understand -- if you haven't used the mark at all OR if you've only made sales within one state, you'll file as an Intent to Use.
One important note: the USPTO will NOT register the mark until the applicant "begin(s) actual use of the mark in commerce and file an Allegation of Use."
More details to come...