If you’ve just finished working on a great phrase to advertise your business, you’re probably wondering whether you can protect that phrase with a patent. Intellectual property law in the United States offers protection to many forms of artistic works including catchy phrases. So, can you patent a phrase? We will answer this below.
Can You Patent a Phrase?
The short answer is no, you cannot patent a phrase. Patent law does not offer protection to an inventor of a phrase. However, you can protect your phase under trademark law by trademarking it with the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office). That said, before seeking to register your phrase with the patent office, you should conduct a trademark search to ensure that no one else has registered the phrase as a trademark with the USPTO.
Why Can’t you Patent a Phrase?
Phrases do not qualify for patent protection because patent law protects new and unique inventions, machines, processes, and designs. Patent law does offer protection for phrases. Phrases that function as an identifier for the source of goods or services are protected under trademark law. So, the question you should be asking is: how do you trademark your phrase?
How to Trademark Your Phrase?
You can trademark your phrase by heading over to the USPTO Online Trademark Application and filling out the required information, once you’ve filled out the required info, you need to file your application online and pay the required trademark office fees.
Just make sure you’re ready to provide the following information:
- Your name
- Name of business if applicable
- Phone number
- Add the phrase you want to protect
- Assign a class for your trademark
- How the phrase will be used
Once you have filled out the trademark application, go over it to make sure that you’ve filled out everything correctly, once you’ve done so submit the application. Once you click to submit the application, you will be prompted to pay the filing fee. The USPTO currently charges $225 for each class of trademark. For example, if you’re filing to protect the phrase for a shirt and shoes, expect to pay for two classes. If you’re only seeking to protect it for shirts, expect to pay $225.
Once you’ve completed filing your application and paid the required trademark office fees, the trademark office will send you a confirmation receipt that contains your filing date, as well as the serial number for your trademark. You can use the serial number in the email to check the status of the application by entering it at USPTO.com.
Reasons to Trademark Your Phrase
- Brand Recognition
Protecting your trademark allows you to become the only person using that phrase, with time customers will begin to associate the protected phrase with your business, increasing the brand recognition associated with your trademark.
If you don’t register your phrase with the trademark office, other parties may use your phrase, if this happens it will lose its power to identify you as the source of the goods or services you’re offering. Therefore, trademark your phase and let it signal to customers that it refers to your or your business.
- Protection from Theft
By registering your trademark with the trademark office, you will be able to restrict others from using your trademark. Also, if any of your competitors want to use the phrase you’ve registered, your registration of it will give them a reason not to use it.
If they see it’s registered with the trademark office, they’ll know that you’ve taken steps to protect your intellectual property. That said, for competitors to know that you’ve registered your trademark, all you have to do is include the registered symbol ® on the phrase you’ve trademarked.
Registering your phrase with the trademark office gives your phrase a presumption of validity that extends beyond the geographic location in which you’re using the trademark. This is important for businesses that intend to expand their business beyond their current geographical location or business that are online.
- Appeal to Customers
If you have a catchy phrase that your customers like, protecting it with a trademark is extremely important because it provides value to your business. When customers remember your phrase, protecting it so that customers associate it only with you is extremely important and valuable.
- Legal Protection
Protecting your trademark by registering it with the trademark office allows you to sue anyone that uses the phrase without your permission. Registration also increases the likelihood of success in a trademark infringement lawsuit. This is so because trademark registration creates a presumption of validity, shifting the burden of proof to the other party to show that your phrase does not identify you as the source of goods or services. If you prevail in a lawsuit, you will be able to collect damages against the other party to the suit.
Steps to Trademark a Phrase
To trademark your phrase, you need to follow the following steps:
- Choose a Phrase
Choosing the phrase that you want to register is the first and most important step for your business. This is so because the phrase that you choose is probably going to be the phrase that you invest your time and money in marketing to your customers, so make sure that no one else has already trademarked the phrase.
Choose a good phrase because you wouldn’t want to invest time and money into it and then change it. So, find something that’s available and suits your business. Ask your friends and family what they think of it, there comments and advise could offer some valuable insights.
- Perform a Trademark Search
After choosing a suitable phrase, run a trademark search using the USPTO’s trademark search tool. Make sure that no one else has registered the phrase that you want to trademark. If the search returns no results, you’re good to go. If the search turns up the same or similar results, you’re better off choosing a new phrase to trademark.
- Prepare and File Your Trademark Application
After choosing a phrase that hasn’t been trademarked, it’s time to prepare your trademark application. You can do so online at the USPTO.gov website. Click on register a trademark, read the instructions, and enter the required information.
If you find that using the USPTO website is complicated, you can choose to have a third party help you register your trademark. Services like Legal Zoom, Trademark Engine, and Nolo can assist you in registering your trademark for a small fee that ranges from $200 to $500.
- Check the Status of Your Application
After preparing and filing your trademark application, the patent office will provide you with a serial number. You can use this serial number to check on the status of your application. In some circumstances, the patent office will require amendments or changes to your application, so it’s important to periodically check your trademark’s status.
How Much Does it Cost to Trademark a Phrase?
Registering a phrase as a trademark costs $275 per class if you register the trademark on your own with the USPTO. If you need the assistance of an attorney to register your trademark, trademark attorneys charge between $1,000 to $2,000 to prepare and file your trademark application. That said, in some circumstances, the attorney may charge you more if he needs to communicate with the trademark office or make amendments to your trademark application.
Trademark fees include the following:
- Filing fees for the trademark application
- Trademark attorney fees
- Fees for maintaining the trademark
Some attorneys charge a flat fee for preparing and filing your trademark application. These fees range between $300 to $1000 per trademark application. If you want to use some of the online legal services that we listed above, expect to pay between $200 to $500 to file your patent application with the USPTO, however, remember that you will need to fill out the information on your trademark by yourself on their website and they’ll file the trademark on your behalf.
Can You Protect Your Phrase in Any Other Way?
Unfortunately, no. The only way to protect your phrase is by trademarking it. Copyright protection does not protect titles, names, slogans, or phrases. So, if you have a phrase you want to protect, the only way to do it is by preparing and filing a trademark application with the USPTO.
What Can You Do If Someone Uses Your Trademarked Phrase?
If a person or business uses your exact phrase or a confusingly similar phrase, you might be able to sue them for trademark infringement. As part of the suit, you will need to prove that someone in your industry is using your exact phrase or a phrase that’s confusing similar to the one you’ve trademarked. If you can show this, you can get a court order, ordering to stop them from using your trademarked phrase.
Patenting a Phrase
As previously mentioned, phrases cannot be patented. Patent law protects new inventions, machines, processes, and designs. Patent protection does not apply to phrases or slogans. However, you can protect your phrase by trademarking it with the patent office. We covered some of the costs associated with trademarking your phrase. If you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.