I did my trademark paperwork myself. It took some research and homework to figure it all out, but if you`re limited on funds, or are just a do-it-yourselfer, you can do it on your own. The price to submit is about $345 per category you are wanting to trademark in. For example, I did children`s clothing and online retail to start - that translates into $345 for each. You only have to pay for the one to start and will be asked at a later date to pay for the other(s) once the application is processed (can take upwards of 18 months for the whole process).
They have lots of instructions on the web site to help you out: http://www.uspto.gov/.
You can also do a search on the above site to see if your name is already in use and under what categories. This will give you a basic idea if the name you want to trademark is already in use by someone. You can also do a search on the web yourself. Of course, there is always the option to pay someone to do a search for you prior to submitting your application.
The trademark office does do a search when going through the process; however, if someone has been using your trade name prior to you and didn`t file the trademark, they still can claim that they had it before you did and take you to court, but I doubt that anyone who didn`t take the time or put up the money to do the trademark in the first place is going to come back at you.
Also, you can start using the TM symbol before you actually file your trademark. They will ask you this on the application: what is the first date the trade name was used? You don`t have to put this if you haven`t. There is also the option to fill in that you plan to use the name in business but haven`t yet. They will check this out during the application process too.
I filed my first trademark app in June and still have not heard anything back yet from the initial email that my application was received and that it would take about 18 months for the process, about six before I`d hear from them again. It`s a long process once you actually file, but you can always put the TM after the name starting today.
Hope this information is helpful to you.
Tammy Graham, Founder & CEO, True Genius Apparel Company: fitting your personality; www.mytruegenius.com.
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."