International classes and deciding which ones are best for your filing

So you’re ready to register your trademark… now what? The next key step will be deciding on the appropriate class for your goods or services.

As you may have gathered by now, registering a trademark with the USPTO is not a simple as paying a fee and popping your SOLD sign on the mark in question. You must declare what sort of goods or services the mark will be used for and continue to show that you are using it as such if you want to maintain your registration. The international class in which your trademark is registered is the broad categorization for type(s) of goods or services it will provide.

There are 45 international classes, each of which contains hundreds of goods and services under their umbrella. Holding a trademark in one class may not preclude someone else from holding a similar trademark in an unrelated class, however, some classes are more closely related than others and examiners regularly cite potentially confusing goods or services from other classes as grounds for refusal of an application.

Sometimes finding the appropriate class for your product is as simple as searching for it in the USPTO’s Trademark ID Manual. For example, consider GRUMPY WARTHOG STRONG ALE: a quick search will tell you that beer is in class 32. However, if your business is called GRUMPY WARTHOG, and you purvey a range of products you wish to protect with your trademark – beer, wine, baked goods, vinegar, candles, lip balm, all from a taproom – things get more complicated. You’ll find that a registration for GRUMPY WARTHOG in class 32 does not protect wine (class 33), baked goods and vinegar (both class 30), candles (class 4), or your brewery as a business (class 43).

Each individual class and mark will require its own application and associated fee, so if money is no object, you might file applications for the same trademark in multiple classes, thereby protecting your use on many different fronts. If funding is limited and your primary use of the trademark is covered under one class (wine and spirits, for example, both fall under the same class), you might file just a single application. This would not mean that you couldn’t use the mark in other ways, but it would lack the protection of a registered trademark.