Registering a trademark in the United States can cost as little as $275 (for the most commonly used “TEAS Plus” application) in fees to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. However, as with many procedures involving the law and lawyers, the costs can always end up to be significantly more than the low estimate.
In addition to the USPTO filing fee, legal fees for registering a trademark typically range from about $1000.00-$5000.00 USD. Pricing models also differ from firm to firm, but I think a good trademark lawyer should be able to state a flat fee, as well as clearly identify what is and is not included with the flat fee. A reasonable trademark lawyer should include in a basic trademark service the following:
- A preliminary search of the mark, both in the USPTO database and on the internet in general. This step can only serve the purpose of eliminating major potential problems, as no trademark lawyer should represent that they themselves have the ability to conduct an exhaustive search.
- If the preliminary search returns no major problems, the lawyer should then file the application with the USPTO, which begins the official process.
- In about 3 months, a USPTO lawyer will review the application. If there are problems with the application, the USPTO will issue an Office Action, which is a formal statement identifying problems with the application, and usually indicates what is needed to fix the problem. I strongly believe that a good trademark lawyer should include in a flat fee, a set number of hours which the lawyer will dedicate to dealing with simple Office Actions. I typically include 2 hours of my time, and this ensures that simple problems will be resolved without my client having to pay more money.
- About a month after the application is approved by the USPTO, the application is then submitted for “opposition” for 30 days: published on the internet for anyone to see, and to oppose if they believe they may be harmed by a registration of the mark in the application. As with step 3, small problems may be resolved without too much time (again which I believe a good trademark lawyer should include with a flat fee), but larger problems may occur.
- About a month after the opposition period ends, or after all oppositions are satisfactorily resolved, a trademark registration will be issued.
I believe clients are generally happy with flat fees, as it helps to maintain some predictability in the process. However, clients should understand that whether the services offered under a flat fee arrangement are sufficient for their mark to be registered does depend on what is being sought to be registered.
For the mark “App Store”, Apple has been fighting the USPTO and many other companies, including Amazon.com, for years. Of course, legal fees for this mark are definitely in the five-figure range, and likely in the six-figure range. I do not mention this to frighten anyone, but one must consider that Apple has done a cost-benefit analysis of this venture, and has decided to pursue this. Also consider that Apple’s brand alone is worth $153 billion, so they understand the value of investing in their brand.
To conclude, the stronger a mark is, and the more unique it is, the more likely the mark will smoothly travel through the registration process, meaning less money spent on lawyers. The combination of a strong mark and having a lawyer with a flat fee will help you keep your legal expenses in check through this brand-building process.