Why Register a Trademark
When You Want More
There are many reasons to register a trademark, including increased infringement protections and enforcement, added credibility and value to your company, and expedited international protections. The benefits of registering a trademark depend on if you register at a state or federal level, with the most benefits occurring at federal registration.
We’ll go over what these benefits mean for state and federal trademark registration.
What Is Trademark Registration?
Trademark registration is the process of submitting your trademark to either your state’s trademark division or the federal trademark division, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The process includes a detailed application, a filing fee, and a wait time that varies.
If you’re looking at your current logo and thinking, “What do you mean I have to register this thing!?,” don’t worry. Technically, you don’t have to register a trademark in order to use it. A trademark begins earning rights and is officially a common law trademark as soon as it is used in commerce.
However, a common law trademark only has protection in the precise geographical area where it is used. The only guaranteed way to have protection outside of your region is to register the trademark.
Let’s go over whether state trademark registration or federal trademark registration might be best for your business.
State Trademark Registration
State trademark registration might be appealing for businesses not looking to expand outside of the state they’re currently operating in. It’s cheaper and faster than federal registration, typically costing around $50.
The main downside to registering your trademark this way is that your protections end at the state border. If your trademark is registered in Missouri and you notice a mark similar to yours across the river in Illinois, there’s not much you can do about it.
Federal Trademark Registration
Federal trademark registration gives your trademark the strongest protection. Even if trademark infringement is happening ten states away, you can still enforce your trademark’s legitimacy.
Federal trademark registration is done through the USPTO. The process can take anywhere from eight months to eighteen months and costs a minimum of $250.
Read more about the difference between state and federal trademark registration.
What Does a Trademark Protect?
A trademark protects more than just the actual image or phrase you submit—it protects your branding, your marketing campaigns, and your company’s touchstone to consumers.
On a more specific level, a registered trademark protects your right to use a name, logo, or symbol to sell a particular good or service. This protection extends to whatever trademark class of goods or services you have chosen on your trademark application.
For example, if you are selling coffee beans, you’ll put down Class 30: Staple Foods to protect your trademark. If you later start selling mugs with the same logo, you won’t be protected unless you also file for Class 22: Housewares & Glass. This is true for federal trademarks as well as most state-registered trademarks. Always check with your specific state to understand the full scope of your trademark protections.
An unregistered, common law trademark protects your right to use the mark in your specific locality. Since there is no formal registration, you can use your trademark for as many classes of goods and services as you’d like.
Ready to get started? Check out our Trademark Service to learn how we can help with the federal registration process.
What Are the Benefits of Registering a Trademark?
There are many benefits to registering a trademark, including infringement protections and value added to your company. Registering your trademark federally with the USPTO allows you to get the most out of these benefits, as state-registered trademarks only have guaranteed protections within their state borders.
Let’s go over the top five benefits to registering a trademark, focusing on USPTO registration.
Benefit 1: Infringement Protection
Infringement protection is usually the main reason a business chooses to register a trademark. Let’s take a men’s apparel LLC in Santa Fe, New Mexico that mostly sells at artists’ markets as an example. What would this company’s infringement protection rights look like under different types of registration?
- Common Law/Non-Registered: Inside Santa Fe, NM, or the surrounding areas where the business uses the mark in commerce.
- State Registration: All of New Mexico, ending at the borders.
- Federal Registration: The entirety of the United States, including the digital space.
So if someone in Maine starts an apparel company and is using a trademark that has likelihood of confusion with your mark over in New Mexico, only the USPTO federal registration will allow you to do something about it.
Benefit 2: Credibility
Registering your trademark with the USPTO can give your business that extra oomph and credibility because you will be allowed to use the coveted trademark registration symbol, ®. This symbol is only available for trademarks that have been federally registered.
Any business that uses their trademark in commerce can use the unregistered symbol ™. Because there’s no discerning process to approve that, this symbol doesn’t give the same importance and credibility to the product as the registered symbol, ®.
Benefit 3: Value
Registering your trademark increases the value of your business long-term with consumers and potential buyers.
If you’re looking to gather investors, merge with another company, or sell the business altogether, you want to have the most attractive proposal possible. By having your trademark(s) registered with the USPTO, you’re including the cost and extensive timeline of the application process, thereby increasing the value of your business.
Benefit 4: Enforcement Abilities
The ability to enforce your trademark is better with federal registration. Here are three ways this shakes out:
- Federal Courts
By federally registering your mark with the USPTO, you get access to the federal courts. So if you’re in Rhode Island and someone in Texas starts using a mark that is confusingly similar to your own, you can sue them for infringement.
- First-Use Dates
Since trademarks don’t require registration, courts look at when the mark was first used in commerce to determine which one has priority. The registration process helps give you proof of your mark’s first-use date.
- Federal Database
Federally registered marks are included in the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). Since most people know to check the database before using their own trademark, having your mark federally registered helps prevent infringement.
Benefit 5: International Advantage
If you are applying for trademark registration in a foreign country, you can use your USPTO registration as a basis for foreign trademark protection. Since a trademark’s validity can be difficult to prove with common law trademarks, federal registration allows you to more easily expedite the process of international registration.
You can also use your USPTO registration to file with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This stops the import of goods with infringing trademarks.