Trademark Guide for Occupational Therapy Entrepreneurs – USPTO Update 2021

If you are looking into filing for a trademark as an occupational therapist, then this guide is for you. There are many benefits to filing a trademark for your business or brand. With the increase of business marketing and operations moving to the Internet and the increasing popularity of platforms such as YouTube and Social media for business, it is a good idea to file a trademark if your business is growing.

Purpose

The purpose of trademarks is to reduce confusion as to the source of a brand name. Take Coke for example. You may have noticed the TM or R symbol next to brands such as these. Although this does not stop someone like me from making a soda and selling it as “Coke”, it gives the original Coke company a right to use the name instead of me. They could then take further legal action against me because I would be potentially taking away from their profits with the trademark to help Coke make their case.

Trademark vs. Copyright

In the most basic sense, a trademark is for a brand or company name to protect its use of the name. A copyright protects a piece of work such a song, artwork, or photograph that you make. A brand with a trademark can create a piece of work that then also has a copyright. For example, Jive records (record company for Britney Spears) is the trademark. When Britney Spears releases a song, they file for a copyright for that specific song. An invention itself is not a trademark but a patent.

TM vs R

  • A brand goes from just the name to ™, then finally ®.
  • ™ is for an application that is still pending.
  • ® is for a registered an active trademark.
  • Example: OT Dude is currently OT Dude™ because I have an application pending.

OT Example

  • Awesome Therapy Company could apply for a trademark.
  • An employee of this company can write an occupational therapy book or textbook and protect it with a copyright.
  • The same or another employee or both of them could create an invention, e.g., like a teacher grabber, and file for a patent.

OT Use Cases

My use case for a trademark was for protecting my name as a content creator and Shop owner for my products. I did not want someone to misrepresent me and sell products or create content under my name and confuse my audience and customers. If they said something on YouTube or sold a bad product using the same name, that would not be very good for my business. With the Internet and interconnected world of communication on social media and e-commerce, I personally believe this is more important than before – when you would have a small business for your local area that may expand maybe to the rest of the United States. Nowadays, my viewers and readers come from all over the world.

My tip is to think big, dream big, and prepare – even if you are only looking say to ‘just’ start a small practice locally.

What if it does really well? What if you want to expand? What if you want to sell products or your services or do consult abroad? A trademark could be a good way to protect your name for this purpose.

International Marks

Keep in mind that a USPTO trademark application with the USPTO is only for the US jurisdiction. You would have to apply internationally for each country that you would be interested in having your mark protected under. This is beyond the scope of this guide, but there is something called the Madrid Protocol that allows you to apply for multiple patent applications for countries that participate in this all at once instead of applying for each individual country. The costs could add up, so you will have to see if it is worth your time and money.

At the very least, you should be looking to see if filing an application is the right step for you in the United States (or your local jurisdiction if you are reading from outside the US).

Costs

DIY:

$250 per class of goods/services $350 per class of goods/services

Attorney: ~Several thousand, depending on the number of use categories and other factors. Some attorneys offer free consultations.

Now that you understand the differences between a trademark, copyright, and a patent and why it may be a good idea to file for one, let’s take a look at the world of trademarks for 2021.

Current State of Affiars

There are many backlogs with trademark applications in Fiscal year 2021.

One issue with trademarking and applying for one is that the process can be very slow. About 1.5 years ago, it took about 3.5 months to have your application looked at. Now it has gone up over 30% over the prior year (and increasing year-over-year) and could take at least 7 months or more and it is steadily increasing. And this is assuming things go smoothly with no hiccups. Some applications could be returned for clarification and require further action within a specific period of time or it would get denied.

So plan ahead, do your research, and apply early!

DIY or Attorney

You can either file the trademark application yourself for a small fee or hire an attorney who specializes in this space to do it for you. There are pros and cons to each method.

The main benefit to doing it yourself is to mainly save money. You could save thousands of dollars on attorney fees. The con is that you are not a professional in this field. You could file an application incorrectly, which could result in delays (and additional costs) to getting a trademark approved. Not all applications get approved and there is a process to it and doing things correctly by submitting the correct ‘specimens’.

Recently in the news, Facebook wanted to rebrand to ‘Meta’. Some news article says another party has already filed an application for that name. So technically if this is true, as a trademark is often (but not always) a first-come-first-serve basis, Facebook could be paying a lot of money to use that name ($20 million as reported just to use the name Meta) because they were not first to file an application. Personally, I don’t think Meta is that good of a name for their vision, but this makes a point for why doing your research is so important. Mark Z probably really wants to use that name regardless?

On the flip side, an attorney could help you do things right. They would know how to conduct research and basically tell you if you have a good shot of getting your application approved or not or recommend that you go back to the drawing board and come up with a better name, among other benefits.

Personally, I went with a recommendation from a family member and consulted with a local trademark attorney to help me file an application for use of the mark ‘OT Dude’. I was floating the idea of a trademark for a while and procrastinated and regret doing so because I could have an approved mark much earlier before this backup in this space. My attorney helped me find out if the name was taken, if similar names that may have first dibs over me, what category or industry to file under, what specimens to submit, considering additional applications and categories for business growth, and much more

I think it is well worth it because if you are serious about your business, you could file the application yourself, but you can it coming back and needing corrections which would mean you would end up hiring an attorney anyways to potentially help you fix future problems. That’s my thought on it anyway, but many people have been successful in filing a trademark application themselves by researching more on the Internet and taking that chance.

Getting Started

To see if your name is already trademarked:

  1. Google ‘USPTO’ search
  2. Search the database (TESS)
  3. Basic word search (New user)
  4. Conduct a search. Remember to enter the name with different variations and spaces, e.g., OT Dude and OT DUDE the search feature is not as good as say, Google and is sensitive to the character cases and spaces.
  5. Applicant means an application is pending. Live means the trademark itself (not the person who filed or owns the mark) is active. Dead means the original filer is not maintaining or paying the fees for that mark.
  6. Search for other names and see how trademarks look like, e.g., ‘Starbucks’, ‘therapy’, ‘Mr beast (YouTuber)’, etc.

Hope this helps!

Jeff is a licensed occupational therapist and lead content creator for OT Dude. He covers all things occupational therapy as well as other topics including healthcare, wellness, mental health, technology, science, culture, sociology, philosophy, and more.