Trademarks are not as complex to file as patents, which makes it extra tempting to try to file for a trademark on your own. But, be careful, there is actually quite a bit more to the process than meets the eye, which often makes using a trademark attorney the best option.
(Start here if need to understand the difference between a trademark, copyright & patent).
If you were meaning to look up costs for a patent, click here to check out our patent cost guide.
Here are some statistics on trademark costs to get us started:
- Over 50% – The amount of trademark filings initially rejected each year (often due to incompleteness or improper filing)
- $400 – $500 – What online sites like Legal Zoom charge for Trademark services
- $1000-$2000 – What you should expect to pay for a quality trademark filing using an experienced trademark attorney
- 1-3 Years – The average amount of time it actually takes to fully complete a trademark filing.
Cost: Doing it Yourself vs. Legal Zoom vs. Hiring a Trademark Attorney
There are basically three ways to file your trademark. You can do it yourself, do it through Legal Zoom or another online filing site, or hire a trademark attorney.
Here’s the breakdown of services and costs associated with each method. In general, we recommend hiring a trademark attorney because of their experience and because they may actually end up saving you money in the long run (more on this below).
Doing-it-yourself is the cheapest option. You basically get on the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), fill out the online form, and pay the $325 (switching to $275 on January 17,2015). Sounds easy right?
The problem is, the process and forms can be very complicated, and full of legal jargon. The USPTO has a guidebook that is supposed to help, but ends up being more of a hindrance. It has 19 sections, all of which are confusing, are at least 4-5 pages long, and refer to all of the other sections, making it a mess to read and figure out. This is why even the USPTO application form recommends hiring an attorney before you start.
Legal Zoom charges $189 + filing fee ($325/$275) for their comprehensive trademark service. This includes a basic search of the federal trademark system to see if there are any direct conflicts with your trademark (which basically means any name exactly like yours), a “Peace of Mind Review” which is really a glorified spell/grammar check, and basic digitization/color adjusting of your trademark design/logo.
Legal Zoom basically makes sure you fill out the form correctly, and that is the extent of their services. They are not actually allowed to provide legal advice or counsel.
Wondering which provider has the best online legal services? We recommend LegalZoom. Click here to read our comparison guide and find out why.
Hiring a Trademark Attorney
Hiring a trademark attorney will cost you between $1000-$2000 or so (filing fee included). If there is additional work needed outside of the general trademark filing process (disputes, etc) then expect to pay between $300-$400/hour for continued assistance.
Although expensive, Trademark attorneys can be an invaluable resource.
Here are some of the services they provide that no other trademark filing method does:
- Extensive trademark search
Goes beyond the basic search to make sure your trademark does not infringe upon previously filed TM’s.
- Trademark Assessment
Actually advises you concerning the strength and uniqueness of your trademark and helps you tweak it to make it better. Trademark attorneys will also let you know if your name/logo is being used in such a way that it doesn’t qualify for ™ filing and help you change it so it is being used correctly.
- Words and Formats Your Application to Ensure Best Chance of Acceptance
In most cases, filing a successful trademark application is more about the prep-work than about the actual filing. Filing correctly is obviously important, but wording and formatting your application is even more important. If not worded/formatted correctly, an application will either be rejected or not actual provide the depth/breadth of protection you want it to. A good trademark attorney will know exactly how to present your ™ to ensure it has the best chance of acceptance and protects you as it should.
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Why Filing Yourself Or Using an Online Filing Site is not a Good idea
You might be tempted to try to file your trademark yourself, or use some cheap online service like Legal Zoom. Although initially cheaper, filing yourself or using an online site could actually cost more in the long run than if you had hired an attorney in the first place.
Over 50% of initial trademark applications are rejected, with some estimating as high as 80%. In many cases, this is because the trademark application was not researched, formatted, or worded correctly, generally the result of bypassing an attorney. If your application is rejected, not only do you have to pay the filing fee again, but you generally have to hire an attorney to sort it all out, which costs quite a bit more than if you had hired one to do it right in the first place.
What Sites Like Legal Zoom Are Actually Charging You For
Sites like Legal Zoom basically charge a fee to ensure that a form is filed correctly. However, there is no guarantee that they have presented your trademark in the way it should be presented or that they have used the necessary language and terminology to ensure your brand security. If there does happen to be a problem with the application, the explanation is sent directly to you, Legal Zoom is no longer involved, which means you are back to hiring a trademark attorney to sort out the problem.
Trademark Cost Example
Let’s say you decide to use Legal Zoom to file your trademark.
Initial Costs = $464
- $275 – Filing Fee
- $189 – Legal Zoom Fee
Several months later, you end up in the 50% and over demographic, receiving a notice that your application was rejected because your trademark is too general (ie. brand name describing product/service instead of having a unique title, like “nice breath mints” vs. “Altoids”), something Legal Zoom missed because they do not provide actual trademark viability assessments (it’s a classic mistake trademark attorneys watch out for).
Of course, considering the rejection notice terminology is not nearly as clear as the explanation given above, you have to get a patent attorney’s help to explain the problem and sort it all out. The process actually takes 3 hours longer than a standard filing, because the attorney had to spend some extra time dialouging with the USPTO to fix the original mistake.
Here are your costs for the second filing attempt:
Secondary Filing Cost = $2325
- $275 – Filing Fee
- $1000 – Standard Attorney Filing Fee
- $1050 – Additional Attorney Fee for 3 extra hours (3 hours x $350/hour)
Assuming the application goes through the second time and there were no other costs, this would be the total cost:
Total Cost = $2789
Now, let’s compare the total costs from this example with total cost of using an attorney in the first place.
$2789 = Example Total Cost
$1275 = Estimate of Total Cost if attorney was used from beginning
$1514 = Estimated Savings If Attorney had been used from beginning
Your savings could even be more, if you factor in the extra time you had to spend away from your business to sort out all of the trademark issues, especially considering the entire process normally takes 1-3 years to complete. If you go with an attorney from the beginning, you will certainly save yourself time and effort, and quite possible money as well.
Considering it costs $1000 – $2000 dollars for an effective trademark filing, you should assess whether it is really necessary for your business to file for a trademark. In general, if you are just a local business, filing for a trademark is not worth it. However, if you are a regional, statewide, or national business, then you probably should file. If you do decide to file, spend the extra money to hire a trademark attorney and you will be well on your way to filing a successful ™ for your business.
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