By: Isabella Erickson
A trademark registered with the Iowa Secretary of State is not the same as a trademark registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). A trademark registered in Iowa is specifically protected in Iowa. If you do business in multiple states, registering your trademark with USPTO can offer nationwide protection for your growing brand. The USPTO places requirements on trademark registration that are similar to the Iowa Secretary of State, but the process is more restrictive and takes much longer. If you do business in Iowa only, then registering your trademark with USPTO may not be necessary. In that case, read on.
Trademarking your business’s logo is a great way to manage and protect your company’s image in Iowa. Recently, the Iowa Secretary of State’s website has added a helpful option for searching existing registered trademarks. As of September 2021, it is now possible to search trademarks by description without searching for an owner’s name or a business number. To do so, you need only go to sos.iowa.gov, click on “Search Databases,” then “Trademark,” then search by trademark name/description.
This new addition to the Secretary of State’s website makes it easier to compare your mark to existing trademarks. For example, if you own a bookstore and would like to trademark your logo, which contains a pile of books, you can search “book” and find all trademarks containing books. If you click on the business number of one of the trademarks that appears in the search, you can click “filings,” then the certification number to see the trademarked design so you may directly compare it to yours.
Registering a mark can be done by filing a form with the Iowa Secretary of State. Trademarks should be unique and not easily confused with another mark. When registering a trademark, it is always a good idea to be as specific as possible in your description of the trademark so your mark will be provided with more protection from infringement. For example, if you owned a bookstore, you would not describe your goods and services as “bookstore.” Instead, you would specify what your business does, like the sale of books, stationery, hobby items, etc. The same goes for your mark itself: you should describe it so well that someone who has never seen it will have a good idea of what it looks like. Instead of saying “blue,” describe the blue, and include the RGB code for it.
Your mark should also be in-use. The Iowa Secretary of State requires that an application to trademark be accompanied by a “specimen of use.” A specimen of use shows how your mark is used in reality. For our bookstore example, that may be a t-shirt with the logo on it that is used as a uniform for employees. Be sure to list on the application every way you use your mark.
The trademark registration process is best done with the help of an experienced attorney.