One thing that any successful company has in common is a trademark. A trademark is an indicator that people and companies use to distinguish themselves from similar products or services in their field. A trademark could be a word, name, slogan, device, or a symbol.
There are many important benefits to registering a trademark. The most important reason is that it prevents others from using your brand name. By registering your trademark, you are claiming all rights to that word for business purposes. It does not mean that people are not allowed to mention that word, but it does give you the right to be the only one using that term in your vertical industry. By vertical industry we mean category in which you do business. Are you in media? clothing? construction, etc. There are several different categories to file Trademarks.
The filing process is not very expensive. Lawyers have always made the process pricey, but now, due to online services such as the ones listed above, you can register a trademark for under $500! That is cheap in the grand scheme. It used to cost us $2,000 before the internet was around. Go to those sites and check it out. They even allow you to search the USPTO database.
The Patent and Trademark Office will not allow anyone to register anything that is similar to your own. If you attempt to register and get denied it is probably because there is a very similar term already trademarked in your category. If people perform a Trademark search on sites like trademarkia.com or knowem.com, your trademark will appear when people are thinking about registering something similar. The United States Patent and Trademark Office will not allow them to file a similar name. Rest easy.
If a competitor chooses to challenge your trademark anyway, by using that trademarked term to sell their goods or services, you can sue them in federal or state court. Having a registration tells your opponent that you are serious and you are prepared to defend your investment. It can really hurt if a company is using your name and doing a poor service. This might reflect badly on your real company name. You will always be favored by the judicial system when you have the Federally acknowledged registration. In many cases, opponents are so intimidated that they agree not to challenge the trademark. If you have a registered trademark and someone is silly enough to encroach on your name knowingly, it is likely that you will receive an infringement award that could be double or triple the amount of your actual damages, plus your attorney fees.
Finally, getting a trademark gives you nationwide priority in that category, which means that your brand will have access to a larger group of people then if it was not trademarked. If someone else trademarks your brand in an area before you did, then you will not be able to register that term. It is very hard to grow a brand nationally without a registered trademark, but not impossible.
The traditional way to register a trademark was to file an application with the Patent and Trademark Office. Your application would then be examined by an attorney for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. That process could take anywhere from three to six months. Today, you can use the online Trademark Electronic Application System, which will upload your application into the system within four to five days.