A trademark application is a filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office that seeks to register federal rights in a mark.  A registered trademark provides the trademark owner with the exclusive right to use the ® symbol on the mark, and it provides a number of other benefits as well.  The registration creates a presumption of senior or superior rights to the mark, it provides constructive notice of ownership in the mark, it allows the owner to bring a federal lawsuit based in federal trademark law for infringement of the mark, it allows the owner to file foreign trademark applications which claim rights to the US application, and it can be used to prevent importation of counterfeit goods into the US.

To establish these rights, a trademark application must first be filed.  Two types of trademark applications may be filed: in-use applications or intent-to-use applications.  The decision to file is not solely based on whether the mark is currently being used; other factors can affect how an application is filed.

Once an application is filed, it will be processed by an Examiner at the Trademark Office in what is known as examination.  Examination begins with a search, in which the Examiner looks for similar marks which are registered or pending at the Office.  If the search turns up a similar mark, the Examiner will issue a rejection, and you will have to respond to the rejection to continue with the application.  If the search doesn’t uncover a similar mark, or if you successfully respond, the Examiner will approve the application for publication.  Then, depending on how the application was filed, the application may issue as a registered trademark.