Startup companies frequently protect brand names through the following process:
An intent to use trademark application (ITU) is filed which immediately establishes national priority for the brand. The ITU application is very powerful. For example, you filed an ITU application January 1 with no actual use. On January 2, a Fortune 100 company spends hundreds of millions on national advertising for the same brand/product. You would actually have the senior rights to the trademark.
However, those chickens come home to roost about 9 months into the process when the first six month window opens to show your use in commerce (trademark specimen). Many startups have only low volumes of products and don’t want to spend thousands on 4-color label printing.
The goods news is that Avery has a relatively new line of product labels you can affix to your product and still look professional. Some of the products are shown below which I photographed at a local Office Depot:
I’ve seen some trademark files where the specimen is simply a piece of paper taped to a single unit of a product. While the trademark examining attorney might accept this as a specimen of use in commerce, it definitely risks the trademark registration’s validity. A third party may challenge whether there was really an actual use in commerce or whether it was a token sale (if a sale at all). Using Avery labels may be a good middle ground and they do look much more professional.