The following is an edited transcript of my video When Should I Apply for Trademark Registration?.

One of the most frequent questions I get is “When should I begin the process to start applying to register my trademark as a business owner?” The answer, almost all the time, is now. That moment, of course, can be at a variety of different stages for a business, and that’s what I want to review here.

Quite often, it’s when the business has just been thought of. It’s just been coming alive, a name has been selected, and the business is in the planning stages. That’s a great time to start the protection of the application process with an intent to use application because otherwise, that name is very vulnerable until it’s being used.

Sometimes businesses come to us just after they started using the name. They just opened their restaurant or their store, launched their website or their podcast. At that time, if the business hasn’t protected the name already, now is the time to do it generally and to file for the registration at that point.

What if you started using the brand name on social media? Yes. Now is a great time to start protecting it because you are already out there publicly. You’ve told the world about it. It’s exposed as an asset because other people know about it. And unfortunately, there are bad actors out there who might try to register domain names or other social media names or just mimic what you’re doing. So if you’re using a brand name on social media, now is a good time to protect it.

What about if you’re early in the business process and you’re seeking investors, is it too early to apply for trademark registration? No. If you’ve got an intention to use this name for some product or services, then even if you’re still seeking investors and you’re still a while away from launching the product or service, it is not too early to start thinking about protecting it. In fact, investors will likely be very glad to hear that you’ve taken steps to protect the name because that makes it somewhat safer than a name that is not underway at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

What if you’re a successful and growing business, is now a good time to protect your trademark? Yes – if you haven’t protected it already and now you’re growing, whether it’s after six months or six years or six decades, it’s not too late to think about registering it, and sooner is always better than later. Or maybe you’re not growing like gangbusters, but you’re rock solid. You’ve been around for years. You’ve never protected it. Is it wrong to think about protecting it now? No, it’s not wrong. It’s wise. If you’re an established business, you’ve got an asset, your brand name, one of the most important assets of the business, and if it’s not protected, you’ve got to protect it, ensure that asset. You do that by registering it with the USPTO.

What if your business already has trademark protection but you’re expanding into new products and services? That is a great time to revisit your trademark protection and think about whether you need new filings. Definitely, if you’re launching new product names or service names, but even if you’re launching new products or services under the existing brand, you’re expanding your portfolio of offerings, you very well might benefit from new filings, even if you’ve already protected the name.

Finally, what if you’re looking towards the end of your business? You’re thinking about selling the business or some kind of exit plan, a new chapter perhaps. Well, that is also a great time to start protecting your brand if it’s never been registered because someone who is looking at buying a business or investing in a business is quite likely to ask about that brand name and whether it’s protected. And when you have a trademark registration, you have a tangible asset that you can actually transfer with the company or transfer separately to a new owner, and that makes it more valuable and more easy to assign a value to the brand and the business as a whole.

For all of these situations, you can see, it is better to start thinking about trademark protection now rather than waiting. In fact, in almost every situation, it’s better to apply to register your brand name sooner rather than later. Yes, there may always be a few exceptions where it’s not a great idea to file now, but those are very few and far between.

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