How to Trademark a Phrase or Word: A Step-by-Step Guide

Trademarks are essential tools for protecting your brand and its associated phrases or words. To trademark a phrase or word, one must first ensure it is unique and not already trademarked. Then, a thorough search of existing trademarks needs to be conducted, followed by the preparation and submission of a trademark application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Once submitted, the USPTO will review the application, and if approved, the trademark will be registered.

After completing the trademark registration, you will have exclusive rights to use the phrase or word in connection to your products or services. This provides legal protection against unauthorized use by others, which can potentially harm your brand’s reputation or revenue. Additionally, it can serve as a valuable asset for your business, as registered trademarks can increase in value over time.


Have you ever come up with a catchy phrase or unique brand name and thought, “I should trademark this”? Well, you’re not alone. In today’s cutthroat business world, protecting your intellectual property has never been more important. A trademark is a symbol, word, or phrase that identifies and distinguishes the source of goods or services. Essentially, it’s what sets your brand apart from the competition. Trademarking a word or phrase ensures that you have exclusive rights to use it in connection to your business. This is crucial for entrepreneurs, businesses, and even creative individuals who want to safeguard their original concepts.

Why is this important? Imagine spending time and resources to build a brand, only to find out someone else is using your unique phrase or word, causing confusion among customers and potentially diluting your brand’s value. That’s where trademarking comes in as your protective shield. It’s not just for large corporations; small businesses and startups also stand to benefit significantly from trademarking their intellectual property. In this article, we’ll dive into the step-by-step process of how to trademark a phrase or word, the pros and cons of doing so, and provide additional insights to guide you through the trademarking journey.

Step by Step Tutorial: Trademarking Your Phrase or Word

The following steps are aimed at helping you successfully trademark your phrase or word, ensuring its protection and your peace of mind.

Step 1: Ensure Your Phrase or Word is Unique

Before you can trademark a phrase or word, it must be unique and not already in use or trademarked by someone else.

To ensure that your phrase or word is truly unique, it needs to be distinctive and not merely descriptive or generic. The more unique it is, the stronger your trademark will be. Conducting a brainstorming session to come up with something original or consulting with a trademark attorney can be helpful at this stage.

Step 2: Conduct a Trademark Search

Perform a thorough search of existing trademarks to ensure that your phrase or word is not already registered or pending registration.

The USPTO’s online database, the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS), is a valuable resource for conducting this search. It’s important to search for similar sounding names, spellings, and variations to avoid any potential conflicts. If a similar trademark exists, you may need to modify your phrase or word or choose a new one entirely.

Step 3: Prepare Your Trademark Application

Prepare and submit a detailed trademark application to the USPTO, including pertinent information about your phrase or word and how it will be used.

This step involves compiling all necessary documentation and evidence of your phrase or word in use, like examples of packaging, marketing materials, or website screenshots. You’ll also need to identify the class under which your trademark falls, as different goods and services are categorized differently.

Step 4: Submit Your Application

File your trademark application with the USPTO, either online through the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) or by mailing in a paper application.

Filing online is generally quicker and allows for easy tracking of your application’s status. There is a filing fee associated with the application, which varies based on the class of goods or services and the filing option you choose.

Step 5: Respond to Any USPTO Inquiries

After submission, the USPTO will review your application, which may take several months. Be prepared to respond to any questions or objections they may have.

If the examining attorney at the USPTO has any concerns or needs additional information, they will issue an Office Action. You will have a set period to respond to this, and failure to do so can result in the abandonment of your application.

Step 6: Monitor and Maintain Your Trademark

Once approved and registered, it’s essential to monitor your trademark for potential infringements and renew it according to USPTO guidelines.

Trademark registration is valid for ten years, with an option to renew. Staying vigilant about unauthorized use of your phrase or word is crucial. You may also want to consider registering in other countries if you plan to do business internationally.


Legal ProtectionHaving a registered trademark gives you legal grounds to protect your phrase or word from unauthorized use, which could potentially save you from financial losses and brand confusion.
Brand RecognitionA trademark can significantly enhance your brand recognition, making it easier for customers to identify and remember your products or services.
Asset ValueTrademarks can become valuable assets. As your business grows, the value of your trademark may increase, which can be beneficial in the event of a sale or business expansion.


CostThe process of trademarking can be costly, including the initial filing fees and potential legal costs if representation is needed.
Time-consumingThe trademark registration process can be lengthy, sometimes taking up to a year or more, which may not be ideal for those seeking quick protection.
Geographical LimitationsA trademark is typically only enforceable in the country where it’s registered, so if you’re doing business internationally, you may need to file for trademarks in multiple countries.

Additional Information

Trademarking a phrase or word is not a one-size-fits-all process; it can be nuanced based on the nature of your business and the phrase or word itself. Some phrases or words may be harder to trademark due to their commonality or descriptive nature. It’s also worth considering whether you need a trademark at all; sometimes, common law rights through consistent and distinctive use in commerce may be sufficient protection.

Remember to use the phrase or word consistently and as registered to maintain the strength of your trademark. Inconsistency can weaken its ability to be protected. Additionally, keep an eye on the renewal deadlines set by the USPTO to ensure your trademark remains in force. Lastly, if your trademarked phrase or word gains significant popularity or becomes an industry standard, you may risk it becoming genericized, as happened with former trademarks like Aspirin and Escalator.


  1. Verify the uniqueness of your phrase or word.
  2. Conduct a thorough search for existing trademarks.
  3. Prepare a detailed trademark application with pertinent information.
  4. Submit your trademark application to the USPTO.
  5. Respond to any inquiries or objections from the USPTO.
  6. Monitor and maintain your trademark registration.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to trademark a phrase or word?

The process can take anywhere from several months to over a year, depending on the complexity of your application and the USPTO’s workload.

Can I trademark a common phrase?

Common phrases are generally harder to trademark as they lack distinctiveness. However, if you can prove that the phrase has acquired a unique meaning in relation to your goods or services, it may be possible.

What happens if someone uses my trademarked phrase or word?

If someone uses your trademarked phrase or word without permission, you may have grounds for legal action. It’s essential to consult with an attorney to explore your options.

Do I need an attorney to trademark a phrase or word?

While it’s not required, having an attorney can help navigate the complexities of trademark law and increase the likelihood of your application’s success.

Can my trademark ever be canceled?

Yes, trademarks can be canceled if they are not used for an extended period, become genericized, or if the registration was obtained fraudulently.


Trademarking a phrase or word is like staking your claim in the vast landscape of the business world. It’s about establishing ownership and safeguarding the unique identifiers that set your brand apart. While the process may seem daunting, the protection and peace of mind it offers are invaluable. Whether you’re a small business owner, an entrepreneur, or an artist, taking the steps to trademark your intellectual property can be a game-changer.

It’s not just about protecting what’s yours today; it’s about securing your brand’s future. So, if you’ve got a phrase or word worth protecting, why not take the plunge and make it officially yours? Who knows, your trademarked phrase could be the next big thing, and with the right protection, the sky’s the limit.

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