Companies don’t pay money and subject themselves to the trademark application process for no reason. Owning a federal trademark registration provides a business with several advantages that can help them competitively and legally.
It all starts with the right of ownership.
1. You legally own the mark
A federal trademark registration provides the owner with a legal presumption of ownership. This includes the exclusive rights to use the mark nationwide on or in connection with the goods and services listed in the registration.
In plain English, this means that you would have the legal recourse to bar or stop your competitors from using your trademark. Additionally, you can also prevent them from using anything that can be considered confusingly similar to your mark. With full legal ownership rights in hand, you can control what gets associated with your mark.
2. You can pursue legal action against infringers
If a competing business uses your trade name, there’s not much you can do about it. A trade name grants you only the rights to use the name in documents and as business identification. You might be able to take action at the state level, but that becomes complicated if the competing business hails from a different state.
Federal trademark holders can sue infringers in federal court. Filing in federal court typically means a more timely process than state courts, since a single judge oversees the entire case. Mandatory disclosure rules of discovery can also benefit plaintiffs in federal court.
3. Your trademark will appear in searches
Before a company can apply for a trademark, it must first conduct a trademark search using the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database. If a company wishes to file a trademark that you already own they will see it in a database search. This should save both of you some legal hassle.
Since the USPTO database is publicly accessible, companies cannot claim ignorance of your trademark ownership. Again, this can help save you on the costs of potentially defending your trademark rights against infringers.
Check out our guide on how to perform a trademark search
4. Prevent against imported goods
A U.S. trademark by itself does not affect international companies, except in one important way. Many foreign companies export their goods to the U.S. When you hold federal trademark rights, those foreign companies cannot use your trademark when selling their imported goods in the U.S.
For instance, an English brewery might call itself Smith’s. It can export its beer to the U.S., but if a U.S. brewery already owns the trademark, the Smith’s in England must distribute its product under a different name in the U.S.
5. Easier path to international rights
A registered trademark also allows the trademark owner to obtain international trademark registrations in foreign countries. So if you want to expand your business beyond the U.S., it would be much easier to obtain trademark protection in foreign countries if you already own the U.S. trademark rights.
6. Use of ® symbol
Only companies that have acquired a federal trademark registration can use the ® sign. Any company can use the trademark symbol (™) or service mark symbol (℠), but would be a violation of federal law for any non-registered entity to use the ® symbol.
Read more in our guide on the trademark symbols
Aside from the benefits we’ve already covered, there are some additional items worth considering.
Intellectual Property and Trademarks
Understanding the realm of intellectual property is crucial for businesses. At its core, intellectual property encompasses creations of the mind, from inventions to artistic works. Trademarks fall under this umbrella, serving as recognizable signs or designs that distinguish the products or services of one business from another. However, it’s essential to be wary of the pitfalls of having a similar trademark to another entity. Not only can it lead to confusion among consumers, but it also poses legal risks, especially if one of the trademarks is unregistered.
Trademark Protection, Infringement, and Domain Names
Achieving an incontestable status for a trademark is a significant milestone. It provides a robust level of protection, making it nearly indisputable in legal challenges. However, trademark infringement remains a concern for many businesses. Infringement occurs when another entity uses a mark that’s confusingly similar to an existing trademark, leading to potential brand dilution or misrepresentation. In the digital age, domain names play a pivotal role in trademark protection. Securing a domain name that aligns with your trademark not only strengthens your online presence but also prevents potential misuse or misrepresentation by competitors.
Geographic Rights, Importation, and Business Considerations
Trademarks have geographic area limitations. This means that a trademark’s protection might be confined to specific regions or countries. For businesses looking to expand, understanding these geographic limitations is vital. Another crucial aspect is importation. Trademarks can significantly influence the importation of goods, especially if there’s a potential trademark conflict. For instance, if a foreign product bears a trademark similar to a domestic one, there might be restrictions on its import. Lastly, business owners must be well-versed in trademark nuances. From selecting a unique trademark to defending it against potential infringements, understanding the intricacies of trademarks can be the difference between business success and legal complications.
Common Trademark Topics for Business Owners
- Branding for Freelancers
- Trademarking a Logo
- Requirements for the Amazon Brand Registry
- Trademarks vs Service Marks – What’s the Difference?
- Trademarks and Domain Names
- Can Your Trademark a DBA?
- Can You Trademark Packaging
- Can You Trademark a Business Model
- Can You Trademark a Company Name
- Can You Trademark a QR Code
- Can You Trademark a Business Concept
- Can You Trademark a Product
While this is not an exhaustive list of the various benefits of trademark registration, these are the most important advantages. Still unsure? Check out the common misconceptions about trademarks.