While they are all ways of protecting your intellectual property, trademarks protect items that define a company brand (like a business name or a logo), copyrights protect literary and artistic materials (like a book or a song), and patents protect inventions (like a new tool). Please see below for details on the legal provisions most relevant to your business.
Recent Regulations and Resources
Register a Trademark
A trademark can be any word, phrase, symbol, design, or combination of these things that identifies your goods or services. It’s how customers recognize you and distinguish you from your competitors. You can register at a state and federal level to legally claim rights to your brand.
Register at a State Level
This is a separate process from the federal trademark registration process. You can register a brand or service with the state of New Jersey by submitting form TMSM-01 to the NJ Division of Revenue. Additional information on state trademark registration
Mail your form to:
New Jersey Division of Revenue
Trade/Service Mark Unit
PO Box 453
Trenton, NJ 08646-0453
Register at a Federal Level
To register your trademark at a federal level, you can file an application for federal registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). While registering your trademark isn’t required to operate a business, it gives business owners distinct advantages, like the right to license a brand, and the right to sue for trademark infringement in federal court, if necessary. Below are the steps needed to apply:
- Before filing an application, you need to search through the pending and registered trademarks to make sure your brand doesn’t already exist. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has a database to search through existing trademarks. When you’re ready, apply for a federal trademark online.
- After your application is filed, it will be reviewed by a USPTO examining attorney who will need to determine if your brand can cause confusion with another already protected by federal registration.
If your application passes the examination phase, it will be published in the Trademark Official Gazette (TMOG). People will have an opportunity to oppose your registration if they believe they will be damaged by it. If there is no opposition, your registration certificate will be issued. The whole process typically takes about a year.
Renewing a Trademark Registration
To maintain registration of your trademark, you must periodically file certain forms with the USPTO. Filing these forms correctly and on time can extend your trademark protections indefinitely, but failure to do so will result in the cancellation of your trademark.
Contact the USPTO Trademark Assistance Center
Phone: Toll-free: 800-786-9199 (option 1)
Local: 571-272-9250 (press 0)
International: 1-571-272-9250 (press 0)
File for Patents
A patent grants property rights to the inventor and gives them the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling their invention within the United States, territories, and possessions for a limited amount of time. The term of a patent is generally 20 years from the date it was filed in the United States. Patents are administered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Anyone planning to file a patent application needs to research previously granted patents to ensure their idea doesn’t already exist. The USPTO website can provide tools for this type of research. It is strongly advised that inventors consult a patent attorney before attempting to file an application. The USPTO also maintains a database of patent attorneys and agents licensed to practice before them. A patent application can be filed electronically through their Electronic Filing System.
After filing, the application will be assigned to an examiner who will research and determine if a patent should be granted. The process generally takes about 25 months but may vary depending on the case.
Contact the USPTO’s Inventors Assistance Center
Register for Copyrights
Copyright is a form of protection for authors of original work. It protects original literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and some other intellectual works both published and unpublished.
The United States Copyright Office is a division of the Library of Congress and is responsible for managing federal copyright protection. Information on copyrights and applications for filing for copyright protection may be obtained from the United States Copyright Office.
Contact the United States Copyright Office
1 (877) 476–0778 (toll-free)
General mailing address:
U.S. Copyright Office
101 Independence Avenue, S.E.
Washington, DC 20559-6000