So you’ve got a hot brand name or logo that you’re ready to register as a trademark but, when you go to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website to e-file your application, you are confounded by the three choices: TEAS Plus, TEAS Reduced Fee, and TEAS Regular. What the heck is the difference and which one should you use?
Well, if you want to file your USPTO application yourself, which method of filing you use will depend largely on your registration needs and to a lesser degree you or your company’s budget.
First of all, TEAS is the acronym for the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Application System.
There are currently three TEAS to choose from: TEAS Plus, TEAS Reduced Fee, and TEAS Regular.
If you’ve tried to apply electronically before, you know that one of the most obvious differences between the three is the cost.
But there is more to consider than saving the $50-100 bucks on the filing fee. In this post, I’ll go through the differences between the TEAS, hopefully demystifying some of the confusion that often comes with it:
Cost: $225 per class
A TEAS Plus application is the least expensive choice, costing you $225 per class of goods or services (if you were to apply for your mark in additional International Classes, you would have to pay the additional TEAS Plus fee for each class–there are no breaks or volume discounts).
The TEAS filing fees are nonrefundable and are charged to the applicant directly by the USPTO.
However, as they say, money isn’t everything. Before you go reaching for the TEAS Plus button, understand that by choosing this option you expressly agree to use one of the USPTO’s pre-written descriptions of goods of services available through the USTPO online application search tool for your mark.
In other words, coming up with your own customized description of goods and services associated with your mark (or attempting to edit one of the USPTO’s pre-written ones) is not allowed.
Why does this matter? Under certain circumstances, a customized, well-crafted description can give you better protection for your mark against potential competitors for that same or similar mark in the future.
Finally, by selecting TEAS Plus, you are also agreeing that all correspondence with the USPTO regarding the application will be done electronically. In other words, no paper application is allowed and you will not receive any paper notices nor be allowed to respond to USPTO Office Actions in paper form.
TEAS Reduced Fee (TEAS RF)
Cost: $275 per class
Unless you are considering it relation to TEAS Regular (see below), calling something that costs $275 a “reduced fee” compared to $225 doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, I know. The short version of the story was, TEAS RF is actually the newest kid on the block and, along with its introduction, the fee for TEAS plus was reduced to $225 from the original $275 (taking effect on January 14, 2017).
What does the extra $50 more than TEAS Plus buy you? Unlike with TEAS Plus, a TEAS RF selection allows you the option of using customized descriptions of goods and services instead of the pre-written descriptions of goods and services that are found through the online application search tool.
However, as with TEAS Plus, all communications with the USPTO in a TEAS RF application must be electronic. No killing of trees allowed.
Cost: $400 per class
Weighing in at a whopping $175 more than TEAS Plus, the TEAS Regular application fee is the most expensive per class of goods and services. For the additional cost, you get the right to create your own customized description of goods and services associated with your mark.
In addition, communications between you and the USPTO do not have to be entirely electronic (in fact, a traditional paper form application may be submitted).
With paper form applications come more work and expense in handling. Hence, the USPTO passes along those higher costs to you in the TEAS Regular option.
Which TEAS Filing Is Right For Your Business?
Now that you understand the basic differences between the three methods of Federal trademark electronic application, which one should you and your business choose?
In my (albeit biased) opinion, only an experienced trademark lawyer can help you make that assessment, and you should always consult with one before spending the filing fee on any of the three choices.
However, if you’re more the DIY type, here are some things to consider in making your selection:
Are you comfortable with filing applications electronically, or do you prefer or filing a physical form application? If you’re in the former category, then TEAS Plus or RF might be the way to go. If you’re in the latter camp, then choose the TEAS Regular application.
Personally, I’m so used to doing just about everything from shopping to banking to registering my car online nowadays that, unless the client (for whatever reason) really wants me to do a TEAS Regular application, I almost always go with TEAS Plus or RF. While not a huge difference in the filing fee, these costs can add up (especially for a burgeoning business or filing in multiple International Classes).
In addition, for paranoid lawyers like myself, there are enough ways to save your work or a copy of the submitted application through the USPTO system that having a physical form to edit or save doesn’t hold as much appeal to me.
Are you alright with only receiving electronic communications from the USPTO? If so, then again you should consider the TEAS Plus or RF options.
If receiving physical paper notices, or being able to respond to any Office Actions in physical writing, is important to you, then go with TEAS Regular.
As a Gen-X’er, the fact that I am committed to only receiving notices on behalf of the client or communicating with the Examining Attorney by e-mail doesn’t really bother me (in fact, I probably prefer it).
Are you comfortable with creating (or, for strategic reasons, do you need to come up with) your own descriptions of the goods and services connected with your mark? From the legal standpoint, this question is far more important than the actual cost differences among the three TEAS application options. If the answer is no, or “not sure”, consider at least talking to an experienced trademark attorney regarding your mark first.
If a customized description of your goods or services related to your mark is going to be needed, then you will want to use TEAS RF or TEAS Regular.
Ben Bhandhusavee is the Managing Attorney for BHANDLAW, PLLC, a Phoenix business and technology law firm working with start-up companies, creative intellectual property, Internet and digital media matters, and complex corporate M&A and technology transactions. Ben can be reached at (602) 222-5542 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org