Top 3 Reasons Why Your Company Needs a Federal Trademark
1) Federal trademarks protect your brand.
A trademark is a logo, word, slogan, textile pattern, or distinctive product packaging (i.e. trade dress) that designates the source of a product or service. Popular trademarks include brand names and logos, such as the Nike swoosh, the Rolling Stones’ “tongue and lips,” and the word McDonalds. The “Burberry Check” pattern is also a federally registered trademark. Trademark law is designed to prevent consumer confusion. You want to be the owner of a federally registered trademark so that you can prevent others from stealing your brand name or creating a brand identifier close to yours.
2) Common law trademarks are not enough.
If you have been operating a local business in a singular geographic area, you may have common law trademark rights to your business name and/or logos in that specific area. However, those rights only extend to the narrow geographic area in which you are operating and do not extend elsewhere. Thus, if you are only trading within one area of the country, another entity could technically be using your exact marks in another geographic area without infringing upon your rights. This is why it’s critical for all business owners who are trading in interstate commerce to file federal trademark applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for their company-owned marks, including the name of their business, the company slogan, and any other marks used to identify the company to consumers, such as a company logo. If the USPTO approves your marks, you will be granted trademark rights nationwide, rather than solely within the geographic areas in which you are using the marks.
3) Federal registration grants many legal rights.
The following legal rights only accompany marks that are federally registered with the USPTO on the Principal Register:
- Exclusive right to use trademark nationwide in connection with the class of goods/services listed in the registration.
- Legal presumption that you are the exclusive owner of a valid mark.
- Right to use the ® symbol next to your mark (e.g. PURPLE LIZARD ®). This symbol serves as official notice to the world that your mark is federally registered. Before you obtain federal registration, you should use the ™ sign to designate your common law trademark (e.g. PURPLE LIZARD™).
- Right to sue in federal court for trademark infringement.
- Right to potentially collect attorneys’ fees, statutory damages, and treble damages in a trademark infringement lawsuit. These damages are not available for common law trademarks.
- Ability to prevent the importation of infringing goods by notifying the U.S. Customs and Border Protection of the federal registration.
- Right to use the federal registration as a basis to obtain trademark protection in other countries.
The bottom line is that if you are serious about protecting your brand and your bottom line, you should apply for the registration of a federal trademark ASAP. If you don’t have a federal trademark, it will be very difficult to prevent other businesses from using your trade name and/or brand identifiers. Even if you are a small company doing business in one location, a third party’s infringement will most likely still hurt your bottom line. You will be in a much stronger position if you are proactive about protecting your rights rather than reactive.