A very frequently asked question by trademark clients is, "How long will it take?" Invariably, obtaining a trademark for their precious Brand is of the utmost importance to every small or medium business owner. Many are misled by the promises of online sites to "get your trademark today" (or in a matter of days). Nothing could be further from the truth, and it is important for a brand owner to understand the process and approach it with realistic expectations. No attorney can guarantee that an application will be granted, let alone that it will be granted shortly after being filed. If a service or attorney makes such bold claims, you are well-served by going elsewhere for trademark services, as they are not legit!
Several factors play into the timing of the trademark application process. The USPTO itself indicates that the process can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months. To understand what takes so long, you have to understand the various steps in the process. If you do a comprehensive search before you file (and this is recommended, but not mandatory) - you will first have to wait for the search vendor to provide the data and for the attorney to prepare their opinion after a full review of that search report. Depending on the vendor (and the amount of data returned) that can take from several days to several weeks. Then, the attorney must work with the client to prepare and file the application. That can indeed be accomplished in mere hours or days. However, after that, the process and its duration are entirely out of the hands of you and your attorney. There is NO WAY to expedite a trademark application.
It will take some time for the filed application to be assigned to a USPTO examining attorney. Then they will have to review the application to reach a preliminary determination or "first action." At that time, any deficiencies with the application are the subject of a Office Action or first refusal. Again, according to the USPTO, the average time to get to a "first action" is currently 8.5 months after the application is filed.
Then, if an Office Action is issued, you will have to respond within 3 months time (or seek a 3 month extension to answer within 6 months time). After that response, the examiner will either allow the application to proceed or it will finalize the rejection, or it can issue a new office action. This inevitably adds time and delay to the process.
Eventually, after a mark/application passes the first action phase, it may be published for opposition. At that time, competitors have 30 days to file any opposition to the proposed mark. Again - this process cannot be expedited and adds more wait time for the process that is inevitable and necessary.
If successful, finally, the USPTO will issue a certificate of registration. Only at that time can the owner use the coveted trademark symbol - ®. According to the USPTO's own data, the current time for a final determination is 14.6 months. This number has been steadily going up over the past few years. This is a result of the fact that the USPTO (along with China, the largest 2 trademark registries) has seen a significant increase in the number of applications filed (especially during the "Covid" era).
The backlog of applications caused the USPTO to hire more examiners, but the backlog remains and is steadily pushing dates out further.
If a client is informed about this and knows that the attorney is monitoring the process closely, it helps to resolve anxiety. Additionally, though the ® symbol can only be used after registration is complete, the "™" symbol can be used even while the application is pending.
To learn more about the trademark process for your Brand, or to get a custom quote for your trademark needs, contact our office. We often provide discount and flat fee combo packages to fit every budget.