If you choose to file your own trademark without the assistance of an attorney, you don’t necessarily need to hire someone else to do it for you. Skip the fees and go right to the source.
While this is in no way legal advice, it’s worth knowing that the website for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) — the American Federal agency tasked with granting US patents and registering trademarks — offers everything you need to make it happen.
How to begin
As someone who has successfully filed for trademarks online since 1998, I can say that — with a little research and an understanding of the requirements — even someone new to the process can successfully complete the application.
One: First, find out what you need to know by reviewing Trademark basics for new filers.
Two: Use the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) to search pending and registered marks (to make sure the trademark you had in mind isn’t already being used).
Three: To prepare, decide upon the class (or classes) you will be filing, choose your payment method, make sure you have your specimen document (if needed), and have ready a sample of the trademark in use (such as a website screenshot) or photo of your product available to upload to prove your use of the term to be trademarked.
Five: Wait, and be sure to check your email (and spam filters) in case any follow-up is required. Assuming there are no major problems, you will need to wait six to nine months until your TM certificate arrives in the mail.
TM and circle-R
Confused about the difference between the two little logos? You’re allowed to use the TM symbol (™) even before you register — or even if you don’t register it at all. It’s considered a “common-law” mark to notify people of your claim.
Once your trademark is accepted and officially registered, you can use the circle R logo (®), also known as the federal registration symbol. (See the details in the USPTO FAQ.)
Scams & international registration
Since the TM registry is public information, you will start to be targeted for at least a few scams — the least of which will be delivered by official-looking letters. They might resemble invoices or simply strongly suggest you protect your trademark in other countries. Some of the fees charged are beyond insane — thousands of dollars to register your mark in the Czech Republic, for instance.
If you definitely have a need to to register international trademarks, check out the USPTO’s page about the Madrid Protocol (aka The Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks) for details on the most cost-effective way to accomplish this.