Why Should I Register My Trademark?
Trademark registration brings several advantagesBy Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on January 27, 2023
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A trademark is a word, phrase, or symbol that identifies and distinguishes a company’s goods and services in the marketplace. Trademarks include business names and logos as well as domain names for websites.
“Trademark is about name recognition and allowing consumers to know where their purchase of a good or service is coming from by knowing a brand,” says Boston intellectual property lawyer Rory P. Pheiffer.
“[If someone knows a brand] and makes a purchase from that brand, they have an expectation of what they’re going to get when they make that purchase.”
So, trademark law “provides a way for consumers to be protected, to know that what they are purchasing is tied to a particular manufacturer or offeror of services and that they are getting in return what they’re attempting to purchase,” he says.
Because of their role in identifying and distinguishing a brand, trademarks are important for entrepreneurs and small business owners to consider in establishing their company name.
How Do I Get a Trademark?
There are a couple of basic ways to establish your rights in a trademark:
- The first method is simply using a symbol or phrase in connection with your goods and services
- The second method is registering your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
There are major benefits to registering your trademark. Let’s look at the two methods and consider their pros and cons.
Common Law Right to Trademarks: Use-Based
Trademarks are a use-based intellectual property right in common law, says Pheiffer. This means actively using a trademark establishes you own the trademark in the mind of consumers.
Common law is the body of law derived from judicial precedents and practice (rather than statutes). In other words, there is a legal tradition of recognizing trademark ownership in those who actively use a trademark.
So, getting a trademark can be as simple as using a symbol or logo for your business.
For unregistered trademarks, you can use the TM symbol to indicate to the public you are using the phrase or logo as a trademark.
The benefits of the use-based approach are you don’t have to go through the trademark registration application process or pay fees. It’s quicker and cheaper.
However, there are significant drawbacks as well:
- Your legitimate use of the trademark is limited to the geographic area in which you started using it
- If someone in another geographic area starts using a similar trademark, you won’t necessarily be able to stop them from using it
- Generally, it will be much harder to enforce your rights with an unregistered trademark
- If someone with a similar trademark registers their trademark, they can stop you from using your trademark
Because of these risks, it generally makes sense to register your trademark and get the legal protections that come with registration.
Furthermore, the costs of registering a trademark are relatively light.
According to Pheiffer, application filing fees generally cost around $300 (exact fees depend on the type of trademark you file for). Lawyers typically charge anywhere from $800 to $1,000 to help with filings.
In other words, there isn’t a huge cost in getting the protections of registration.
Nevertheless, speaking with an experienced lawyer about your situation is important. It may be that registration isn’t necessary in your case. But to get peace of mind that your trademark will be protected, seek legal counsel.
Federal Trademark Registration
Registering a trademark with the USPTO gives trademark owners certain exclusive rights and legal protections they wouldn’t otherwise have:
- Exclusive rights to the use of the mark
- Notifies the general public of your ownership of the mark
- Makes your trademark rights enforceable in the federal court system
- Enables you to bring a lawsuit against others for trademark infringement if they use a similar trademark symbol or similar name
- Record your registered mark with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to stop infringing products from being imported into the country
There are a few steps to getting trademark protection with the USPTO:
- Come up with a trademark that has distinctiveness
- Do a trademark search to ensure someone else isn’t already using the trademark
- Create an account at USPTO.gov.
- Complete the trademark application
- Pay the trademark filing fees
- Answer questions from the trademark examiner
- Await approval of your trademark and a certificate of registration
Once your trademark is registered, you can upgrade from the TM symbol to the ® symbol to indicate that your trademark is federally registered.
Read this article to learn more about the steps to register your trademark.
Getting an experienced trademark lawyer’s help can make the application process go smoothly, avoiding mistakes and unnecessary delays.
Questions for a Trademark Attorney
Most trademark lawyers provide free consultations for potential clients. It won’t cost you anything to meet with a lawyer and get legal advice.
To get the most out of a consultation, ask informed questions such as:
- What are your attorney’s fees and billing options?
- Should I register my trademark?
- What are the pros and cons of registering?
- How much will filing fees be?
- How long will the process take?
Once you have met with a lawyer and gotten your questions answered, you can begin an attorney-client relationship.
Look for a trademark attorney in the Super Lawyers directory for legal help.
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