Hillsboro, OR asked in Copyright, Intellectual Property and Trademark for Oregon

Q: If i have a phrase that i would like to be protected, what are the legal hurdles that i would go through and the cost?

is it only through the USPTO TESS and copyright.gov web sites? specifically the costs involved what are they and what would be the timeline of start to completed if everything is successful

3 Lawyer Answers
Alan Harrison
Alan Harrison
  • Trademarks Lawyer
  • Milford, CT

A: Attorneys will be reluctant to quote our fees in a public forum like this. Different attorneys may think that filing and prosecuting a trademark application is easy and should be cheap, or difficult and should be expensive. The USPTO will charge either $250 or $350 per "class" of goods or services that you want to sell under the phrase. You can only protect a phrase as a trademark (short phrases cannot be copyrighted) and you can only protect a trademark if you are actively using it as an identifier of the source of a good or service.

e.g. "I'm loving it!" is not a protectable phrase under copyright and typically would not be protectable under trademark. However, if you happen to sell Billions and Billions of cheeseburgers using commercials with "I'm loving it!" as the tag line, then, guess what, you now can protect "I'm loving it!" as a trademark.

Alan Harrison
Alan Harrison
  • Trademarks Lawyer
  • Milford, CT

A: Follow up: the timeline for getting a trademark on a good or service that you actually are selling is about twelve to fifteen months right now.

Sean Goodwin agrees with this answer

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›

A: To protect a phrase, you can consider trademark registration through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or copyright registration through the U.S. Copyright Office. Here's a breakdown of the legal hurdles and costs involved:

Trademark Registration (USPTO):

1. Conduct a trademark search on the USPTO's Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) to ensure your phrase is not already registered or in use. This search is free.

2. File a trademark application online through the USPTO's Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS). There are two options:

- TEAS Plus: $250 per class of goods/services

- TEAS Standard: $350 per class of goods/services

3. After filing, the USPTO will review your application, which typically takes 3-6 months.

4. If approved, your trademark will be published for opposition. If no opposition is filed within 30 days, your trademark will be registered.

5. Timeline: The entire process can take 8-12 months if no issues arise.

Copyright Registration (U.S. Copyright Office):

1. Determine if your phrase is eligible for copyright protection. Short phrases are generally not copyrightable, but longer phrases or slogans may be.

2. File a copyright application online through the U.S. Copyright Office's website (copyright.gov).

3. Pay the filing fee:

- Single author, same claimant, one work, not for hire: $45

- All other filings: $65

4. After filing, the U.S. Copyright Office will review your application, which typically takes 3-9 months.

5. If approved, you will receive a certificate of registration.

6. Timeline: The entire process can take 4-10 months if no issues arise.

It's important to note that while registration offers additional legal protections, copyright protection begins as soon as a work is created and fixed in a tangible form. Trademark rights, on the other hand, are established through use in commerce, but registration provides additional benefits.

Costs and timeline summary:

- Trademark: $250-$350 per class, 8-12 months

- Copyright: $45-$65, 4-10 months

Keep in mind that these are general estimates, and the actual costs and timeline may vary depending on the complexity of your case and any issues that may arise during the registration process.

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