If you want to protect your trademark before you make it public, try to think the opposite way. Actually, in order to file your claim to your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark office, you must be able to prove that you have been using it. You will need to show that your trademark has appeared on products that you sell and on promotional materials that are related to your services or products.
You must document the date you first begin to use your trademark and there are several ways to do it. A shipping receipt or an invoice can equally prove that your trademark is in use in relation with your products. While placing your trademark on the paperwork is not considered a first use, the sale of the goods does indicate you were in business. It is a bit of a gray area but if you place your trademark on the goods or a tag attached to the goods than the date of first use cannot be challenged.
If you own a domain name and publish a website, this can serve as proof of your first use of your trademark. The trademark must appear on or near the products/services you sell. While domain the name ownership is well documented, it is always a good idea to save screen-captures that also show your trademark on the website. This supports your claim to your trademark.
Do you need legal protection?
First come first served is the rule of thumb in trademark usage, and it is not necessary to register a trademark in order obtain full rights. You can use “TM” for “trademark” or “SM” for “service mark” when you begin to use your trademark, even if you have not registered it. Nonetheless, you cannot use the ® until the trademark office approves your application, because this symbol indicates that you have registered the trademark. The more critical role your trademark plays in your overall marketing strategy and the longer you want to use it, the more advisable it is to register it.
When you file your mark
If you decide to apply with the trademark office, you can use your first date of use as proof that the trademark is yours. Competitors will have the opportunity to dispute your mark, but your proof that you have been using the trademark will help you convince a trademark examiner that the mark is yours.