The following trademark registration overview will provide a brief introduction to certain information of important for any inventor, entrepreneur or business seeking to register and/or protect their trademarks.
Federal and State Law Trademarks
Trademark protection in the US come from three sources (see: trademark laws): 1) federal law, 2) state law, and 3) common law. Each source has its own requirements and levels of trademark protection; however, a federal trademark registration provides the most legal protection for your trademark. To qualify for federal registration, the trademark must be used in interstate commerce. This means the trademark must be used on a product or service that crosses state or national lines, or that affects commerce crossing those lines. (i.e., an internet business or a business with national or international customers, such as a hotel). If a trademark is used solely in one state, depending on the requirements of that specific state, the trademark can be registered in that state. State trademark registration can protect your trademark in that state alone, whereas a federally registered trademark allows you the benefit of protecting your trademark nationwide. Thus, to enjoy the maximum protections under the law, the best option is to register your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Common Law Trademarks
Common law trademarks are those that have not been registered under federal or state trademark law, but for whatever reason, the trademark owner decided not to officially prosecute and register its trademark. Despite the failure to register the trademark, under common law, a trademark owner may develop certain enforceable rights in a limited geographic area in which the trademark is used and/or advertised. However, because the trademark owner does not hold a federal or state trademark registration, the trademark is not entitled to the legal presumption of validity and enforceability enjoyed by registered trademark owners. As a result, common law trademarks are often very difficult to enforce.
Benefits of Federal Registration
There are many benefits of federal trademark registration. The biggest advantage is having nationwide priority over the exclusive rights to use the trademark. This gives the owner protection throughout the nation, regardless of where the owner uses the trademark. Additional benefits include: