I strongly recommend that you consult with an experienced trademark attorney. And please do not use one of those pseudo-legal companies that claim that they can file your trademark application. I have had to fix a number of their mistakes and I can tell you that they are a waste of your money.
Yes, it usually takes about 11 months for a trademark application to register and that time frame assumes a couple of things: (1) that the mark is already being used in commerce, (2) that there are no issues with the application that require the Trademark Examining Attorneys at the Trademark Office to issue refusals, and (3) that no third party files an opposition to your trademark application. If any of those assumptions are not true, it can take a much longer time.
For copyrights, your rights arise as soon as you fix an original work of authorship in a tangible medium of expression. In other words, as soon as you write the source code for computer software or type your poem on your computer, etc. then you own a copyright in your work. However in order to effectively enforce your copyright, you need to register it. And your copyright registration date is usually the date that the Copyright Office receives all requirements (for example the application plus the deposit copies).
Trademark rights arise from use of a mark in commerce on goods or in connection with services. Registration is not required to obtain trademark rights. However, registration does bring significant advantages that common law trademark rights arising from use do not, so it is usually advantageous to register your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Regarding the number of applications, that will depend on exactly how you are presenting the mark. An experienced trademark attorney can review your plans (if you haven't begun use yet) or look at what you are doing (if you have begun use) and give you guidance as to whether you are presenting it as one or two marks.
Also, remember if you are only using the character and phrase on the front of a t-shirt, that may not be considered trademark use sufficient to establish any rights. You could be in for an ornamental refusal at the Trademark Office. Thus, I urge you to consult with an experienced trademark attorney who can review your use or proposed use and can guide you. You do not want to waste your time or money filing a trademark application or two only to have them be rejected by the Trademark Office. All filing fees are non-refundable - so if your trademark application is rejected, you are out that money. Thus, it is a good investment to hire an experienced trademark attorney who can counsel you on how best to move forward so that you can establish a valuable, protectable mark or marks that will have no problems obtaining federal registration.
This answer is for general information purposes only. This communication does not constitute legal advice, nor does it form an attorney-client relationship.
You're right that it typically takes more than 6 months to register a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("PTO"). My own trademark application for the slogan SCIENCE FICTION MEETS LEGAL VISION was filed July 18th of this year, and was officially published for opposition (not yet formally registered) on December 13th.
And you're right that the effective date of a federal copyright registration is the day its application is received at the Copyright Office, even though it may take weeks or months before the applicant receives the registration certificate.
Regarding trademarks, the story is a bit more complicated. That's partly due to the fact that under the law as generally applied in the United States, certain rights arise when a business USES a trademark, and other rights arise when the trademark gets REGISTERED. It's also true that there are a variety of places where someone could register such a trademark, not only in the U.S. PTO, but optionally with each of the States. And it's also desirable to consider registering one or more Internet domains if pertinent. Moreover, there are different rules that apply at the PTO depending on whether the applicant has already started to use the trademark in interstate or foreign commerce (actual use) or has not yet done so but plans to do so in the future (intent to use).
Since you're talking about making money from this business and saying that you want to ensure your exclusive rights to a character and a slogan, it's time for you to consider whether to invest in a consultation with an attorney who'd confidentially review your plans and desires and then outline a strategy for protecting your intellectual property that takes into account not only the specific questions you ask but also the entire legal and business environment.
In fact, I happen to have already registered the trademark STRATEGIC LAWYERING. CULTIVATING INNOVATION. for such services as provided by Elman Technology Law, P.C.
This posting is intended for general education and isn't "legal advice." It doesn't create or evidence an attorney-client relationship. You are encouraged to engage an attorney in the pertinent jurisdiction for confidential legal advice on matters of any importance.
I like Mr Elman's response, thorough and humorous at the same time. My corresponding trademarked logo is CREATING PROTECTIONS & PROTECTING CREATIONS.
To directly answer your question "Is it the same with trademarking". YES, but you have it wrong. Protection for copyright begins upon creation of the work in tangible form provided you did, in law or fact, create it. Protection for trademarks begins upon first use in commerce, provided you are actually first. Trademark rights are based on use, with priority going to the first to user or first to apply for Federal registration. You can safely monetize the character once your application is filed, provided you have had a trademark clearance done. Go to www.uspto.gov and in the upper right corner you now will see "trademark search". Click on it and do a quick check before you lock on to this trademark. If you see any search results that suggest a possible conflict, get a consultation (initial consultation is free, so why wouldn't you?) with an intellectual property attorney who handles both tm, copyright, licensing and patents so you are sure you have the maximum available protection. Also, you should consult a business attorney if you have not already done so, as you do not want to put your personal assets at risk in this endeavor.
Your second question was whether you need two separate applications, one for the character and one for the phrase. That would be better protection, so that they are separately protected and use of either would then more clearly infringe.
L2BL: When unsure about the law, see a lawyer. And one specializing in your subject matter will usually provide the best advice.
So far, this is free to you. Until you pay a fee, I am not your lawyer and you are not my client, so you take any free advice at your sole risk. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.