How to Register a Trademark in California: A Step-by-Step Guide for Businesses

How to Register a Trademark in California

If you’re based in California and have created a unique brand, logo, or slogan for your business or products, you may want to consider registering it as an official trademark with the state.

Securing a trademark registration legally protects your intellectual property and allows you to stop others from using your marks without permission.

While trademarks can be registered at the federal level through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), many businesses choose to register their marks directly with their state as well.

Here’s why:

  • Covers key markets – trademarks registered in CA receive exclusive rights and protection under CA state law. This guards your brand within one of the largest economies in the U.S.
  • Faster and cheaper – Approval times for state trademarks are typically faster compared to federal marks. State registration fees are also much lower.
  • Builds value – A registered state trademark adds legitimacy and value to your business and any potential future sale.
  • Steps toward federal registration – You can still pursue a federal trademark later if you expand into interstate markets. The state application process is good practice and may make the federal process smoother.

Are you ready to reap these advantages for your business? Here is a step-by-step guide walking you through the process of successfully registering a state-level trademark in California.

Step One: Check if the Mark You Want to Register is Available

Thoroughly search existing state and federal trademarks to ensure the name, logo, slogan, or brand identifier you want to register is still available for use in commerce. Big, costly issues can occur for entrepreneurs who do not do their homework.

Searching the United States Patent and Trademark Office database and the California Trademark database is a good start, but you should consider going even further when looking for potential conflicts.

Google the name you want to use. Search California state and local business records. Look through internet domain registries. It’s worth the effort to confirm your mark is truly not infringing on rights already afforded to another entity.

Step Two: Prepare Your California Trademark Application

Once you’ve settled on a unique, legally available trademark to register, it’s time to prep your application for filing. The CA trademark application requires the following key details:

  • Your name and address
  • A clear, specific description of the trademark you wish to register
  • The classification code(s) for the goods/services related to your mark
  • The date you first used this mark in commerce
  • Signature declaring all information is accurate

You’ll also need to include:

  • 1-3 examples showing how your trademark appears in actual use
  • Application filing fee payment (typically $70 per classification)

Step Three: File Your Application with the California Secretary of State

Now comes the big moment – submitting your completed California trademark application. You have three options to file:

  1. Online – File through the Secretary of State’s bizfile portal. Fastest and most efficient option. Payment is required by card.
  2. Mail – Print and mail the completed application to the Secretary of State’s office (address listed on the form). Pay the fee by check.
  3. In-Person – Bring your application to the Secretary of State’s office in Sacramento. Pay fee onsite.

No matter how you file, make sure to keep documentation showing clear proof of filing date and time. This establishes your trademark rights and priority over any future applications for identical or confusingly similar marks.

Step Four: Wait for Your Application to be Reviewed for Accuracy and Completeness

All applications go through an initial review by the Secretary of State’s office. Check back within 5-10 business days to find out if your trademark application was accepted as complete as-is or if you need to provide any clarifying details or corrections.

Don’t forget – willfully including inaccurate information could risk civil penalties of up to $10,000, so double-check that all statements in your application are truthful. Many trademarks face issues before registration; luckily, you will have a chance to respond to any issues or to otherwise convince the Secretary of State to register your trademark.

Either way, having guidance from a licensed California trademark attorney helps avoid disappointment. TONG LAW has guided many applications to success.

Step Five: Your Mark is Published in the Official State Trademark Bulletin

If no clarification is needed and your application meets all requirements, your proposed trademark will be published in California’s next Official State Trademark Bulletin.

This commences a 30-day opposition period where other parties have the chance to legally oppose registration if they feel your mark too closely resembles theirs or have other valid concerns.

Step Six: Receive Your Official Certificate of Registration

Barring any opposition, you will receive an official acknowledgment of registration from the California Secretary of State in 2-6 months. Congrats – your trademark is now legally registered and enforceable within state borders!

Be sure to continue using your registered mark properly in commerce with the ® symbol and file maintenance documents as needed to keep your state rights active. You can also now choose to pursue federal USPTO registration for broader legal protections.

Keep Your Registration Up to Date

Once your trademark has been successfully registered in California, the journey does not end there.

To keep your intellectual property rights protected, you must:

  • Renew your trademark every five years
  • Report any changes in ownership, including name, address, or product offerings
  • Actively monitor and police your mark for third-party intellectual property infringement

For example, say another business begins using a dangerously close variation of your trademark. As the registered owner, you can send formal notice demanding that use stop.

Do you have belief or evidence that your trademark is being misused? Contact TONG LAW to discuss the legal actions you can take to protect your brand.

Ready to Register Your California Trademark?

We hope that this guide has demystified the process and possibilities on the journey of receiving a California trademark registration. Registering your trademark opens the door to powerful legal rights. TONG LAW has guided California businesses from startup to success, securing trademarks along the way.

Ready to take the next step in protecting your brand assets? Reach out to TONG LAW for clarity and confidence in the California trademark registration process. We’re here to partner with you in protecting the most valuable asset your business owns — its reputation.

Author Bio

Vincent Tong

Vincent Tong is the CEO and Managing Partner of TONG LAW, a business and employment law firm located in Oakland, CA. Vincent is a fierce advocate for employees facing discrimination and wrongful termination. With several successful jury trial victories and favorable settlements, he has earned a strong reputation for delivering exceptional results for his clients.

In addition, Vincent provides invaluable counsel to businesses, guiding them on critical matters such as formation and governance, regulatory compliance, and protection of intellectual property assets. His depth of experience allows him to anticipate risks, devise strategies to avoid legal pitfalls, and empower clients to pursue their goals confidently.

Vincent currently serves as the 2021 President of the Board of Directors for the Alameda County Bar Association and sits on the Executive Board for the California Employment Lawyers Association. Recognized for outstanding skills and client dedication, he has consecutively earned the Super Lawyers’ Rising Star honor since 2015, reserved for the top 2.5% of attorneys. He also received the Distinguished Service Award for New Attorney from the Alameda County Bar Association in 2016. He is licensed to practice before all California state courts and the United States District Court for the Northern and Central Districts of California.

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