Five reasons you might need trademark protection

If you’re reading this post, there is a fair chance your brand would benefit from trademark protection. A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. A service mark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than goods. The term “trademark” is often used to refer to both trademarks and service marks.

Without any more introduction, let’s get started:

5. The right to use the federal registration symbol

If you claim rights to use a mark, you may use the “TM” (trademark) or “SM” (service mark) designation to alert the public to your claim of a “common-law” mark.  No registration is necessary to use a “TM” or “SM” symbol and you may continue to use these symbols even if the USPTO refuses to register your mark.  Those symbols put people on notice that you claim rights in the mark, although common law doesn’t give you all the rights and benefits of federal registration.

You may only use the federal registration symbol “®” after the USPTO actually registers a mark, not while an application is pending.  And it may only be used on or in connection with the goods/services listed in the federal trademark registration and while the registration is still alive (you may not continue to use it if you don’t maintain the registration or it expires).  Although there are no specific requirements on where the symbol should be placed relative to the mark, most businesses use the symbol in the upper right corner of the mark.  Note: Because several foreign countries use “®” to indicate that a mark is registered in that country, use of the symbol by the holder of a foreign registration may be proper.

4. Listing in the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s online databases

Having your trademark listed in the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s online database announces to the country that you claim right to your mark. A listing on the Principal Register provides public notice throughout the United States. This leads into number 3…

3. Public notice of your claim of ownership of the mark

The “®” symbol indicates that you have federally registered your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. It puts the public on notice that your mark is registered and that you claim nationwide rights to it.

2. A legal presumption of your ownership of the mark and your exclusive right to use the mark nationwide on or in connection with the goods/services listed in the registration

Having your mark examined by the United States Patent and Trademark Office creates a legal presumption that your mark is valid. This presumption can strengthen trademark protection for your mark throughout the United States.

1. The ability to bring an action concerning the mark in federal court

Perhaps the most important benefit to federally registering your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office is the access it provides to the federal courts for infringement lawsuits. The primary sword behind your registered trademark is that you can seek damages against an infringing party for their unauthorized use of your mark.