·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary


How to Protect Your Startup Ideas with Trademarks

— September 2, 2021

Whether your startup is still in its early stages of development or has already been around for a while, registering your intellectual property can save time and headache further down the line.

Many of today’s startups exist at the crossroads of innovation, technology, and legality. While opening up a startup comes with its own set of challenges, much of the success of one’s future depends on what one does early on. In an era ruled by digitally documented proprietary information, knowledge on how to protect your startup with trademarks is an absolute must. 

While there are many benefits that arise from further merging technology with the law, it also comes with an increased awareness of potential risks. Some of these risks include having someone steal your invention and monetizing off of your hard work without proper credit or compensation. 

In this post, we go over the nuts and bolts of what is intellectual property (IP) and how to go about utilizing this for the benefit of your startup’s protection. 

What is trademarking?

Trademarking refers to the establishment of creative ownership of what essentially begins as an idea. In the same way that one might own a physical property like a house or a car, intellectual property refers to the proprietorship of anything from a sculpture to a novel to a scientific discovery. 

There are different types of trademarks. Each refers to certain characteristics and varies in the duration of expiration. To register your intellectual property as such, you must do so and receive approval from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The three main types of intellectual property are copyright, patent, and trademark.

Types of trademarking 

Copyright: This is typically associated with novels and literary works. Examples include textbooks, fiction works, and theatrical productions.

Patent: These generally have more to do with inventions and scientific discoveries such as cars or vaccines. 

Trademark: Essentially everything else that is not a copyright or patent, a trademark refers to brand names, logos, slogans, catchphrases, and the like. You can also trademark pictures and sometimes even architectural designs.

Steps to Registering Your IP

Before determining whether or not you may want to hire a lawyer to do this for you, holding a general understanding of the process may assist in your ability to save time and money. 

Essentially, registering your trademark consists of filing a string of applications and paying various fees. 

Determine which type of trademark: Whether it be copyright, patent, or trademark, taking into account what it is will most likely allow for you to classify which category most accurately describes your idea. 

Make sure it is available: Check and see if the name and/or idea are not already taken. Ways you can do this are by inquiring through the USPTO, running a search through your search engine, or using a 

Check state requirements: There may be different requirements depending on the state in which you choose to file, so make sure to verify what those differences are as this may impact your chances of being approved. 

Whether your startup is still in its early stages of development or has already been around for a while, registering your intellectual property can save time and headache further down the line. Choosing not to hire a lawyer can save you upfront costs but at the expense of running the risk of dealing with unforeseen problems or loopholes later on. Luckily, an alternative to this is working with companies that offer legal advice and do all the heavy lifting for you, at a fraction of the cost.  

Please include attribution to with this graphic.

A Guide to Trademarking Your Startup

The graphic in this article was created for and reviewed by LegalZoom to assist aspiring entrepreneurs and established businesses with understanding intellectual property protection.

Join the conversation!