A creative mind in Massachusetts may come up with a snappy phrase, a name, something that can be used as part of a product, only to run into a problem. It will take a while, perhaps months, to fully develop the product, but somebody comes up with the same idea and might beat the Boston entrepreneur to the punch. However, a creative person in this scenario can still trademark the phrase or name even though the product is not ready yet.

According to FindLaw, entrepreneurs in the development or planning stage of making a product have the option of trademarking a product name with the federal government. In this scenario, you would file an ITU trademark. An ITU, meaning “intent to use,” is a way you can reserve the mark for a future date. The trademark is not active yet. However, you are creating a placeholder that allows you to use it later on.

Once you have filed an ITU trademark, the clock starts ticking on when you can use the mark. Federal law requires you to start using the mark from six months to three years after you have filed. If you start using your trademark, the mark becomes active, and the previous time going back to your filing is retroactively considered your use period. So if you file an ITU and use the trademark seven months later, the law considers your use of the mark to actually date back to the ITU filing.

ITU trademarking can greatly assist you. Not only does it reserve the mark for your future use, it offers protection against parties who may try to use the mark before your product is ready. Keep in mind that this article is written to educate readers on commercial litigation matters and is not intended as legal advice.