You hire me because I already know the rules and the system and because I know what to do, but you can certainly do it yourself.
Clients who are considering whether to spend this kind of cash to get a trademark registered sometimes ask me "if it's worth it."
Sometimes I tell them this.
When you go to pick up some mouthwash at the store, you see Listerine, you see Scope, you see some other brands, you see the store brand. Usually, the store brand (or "generic") product is right next to the branded product on the shelves. Usually it's in very similar packaging: some Target mouthwash is sold in bottles that are the same size and shape as the Listerine bottles right next to them; some Target mouthwash is sold in bottles similar to the Scope bottles; and so forth.
The generic mouthwash is usually the same color as the branded mouthwash: Listerine green next to Target green, Listerine blue next to Target blue.
In fact, about the only differences are the labels, and the price.
Seriously. Those are probably the only differences. As in, the stuff inside is the same. Not "similar," you see, IT'S THE SAME STUFF. Yeah, that's Listerine Blue in the Target Blue bottle.
Think about it. Listerine and Target both know there's a market for generic, store-branded products, especially in personal hygiene. What's going to be the most cost-effective way for Target to get Listerine-like mouthwash? Do you think that the Target stuff comes from Target labs, where Target chemists scurry around, trying to get the color and the taste as close to Listerine's and Scope's as they can? Do you think that maybe Target sources the stuff from some other facility where this is done? Can you imagine the overhead of either of these processes?
Target sources the stuff from Listerine. It's already made, and it's exactly like Listerine, because it is Listerine. It might actually be bottled at the Listerine facility, and maybe even labeled there, then shipped in different boxes, to be offered on the same shelf, in the same store, at 1/4 the price of the branded stuff, even though it's exactly the same product.
But we trust Target. Target is good, it's clean, the quality of Target stuff is acceptable, and we know Target wouldn't do wrong by us. We'll buy Target brand mouthwash. On the other hand, we'd probably skeptically pass on the store brand of a really tiny store chain with no national recognition, especially on mouthwash that might not look like Listerine.
There is a very prescribed formula followed when the branded stuff introduces a new product, before we see a generic version. For example, Listerine just came out with "whitening" mouthwash. Sales will be recorded for a few months, and if there's a positive response, marketing analysts decide to explore the generic market in favorable regions by contracting with the retail outlets that sell the branded version, but only after a period of time during which revenue is maximized.
Back to Listerine blue, sitting side-by-side next to Target blue at 1/4 of the price.
What are we paying for, when we buy Target blue? Well, some mouthwash and the power the Target mark.
What are we paying for, when we pay the extra 2 or 3 or 4 dollars to buy the Listerine blue? Some mouthwash, plus the power of the Listerine mark.
Now multiply that by a few million, or more, or billion, and you get a picture of whether it's worth it to drop a few large to get a registration.
OK, obviously, the account above is oversimplified, and of course very very few marks are owned by people savvy enough to turn it into a world-famous brand. But there is a first step in everything.