Is Trademark Registration Required to Protect Your Business Name?

In short, a trademark registration is not required, but is often helpful in your quest to protect your brand.  A trademark can be obtained for a word, a phrase or a design, think logo, that is unique to your product or service and identifies that product or service as associated with your business. In the United States, you automatically get protection when you use a word, phrase or design that is used in connection with your goods or services. You don’t necessarily need need to register your mark to protect your business from someone for using your mark or name, although it can be helpful if your mark is registered with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (“USPTO”).

What Can You Trademark?

Although a mark will protect any type of an indicator of origin or source of goods or services, a trademark is most commonly made up of words, designs, or a combination of words and designs. Although in some cases, your business can protect sounds, scents or colors (for example, IBM blue).

Why Register Your Trademark?

One of the largest benefits of registering your mark is that you get nationwide protection. This means that you can prevent someone else from using your name or design to sell similar goods or services, of course exceptions exist to every rule. You can use the registered symbol (®) as soon as you are notified that your trademark has been successfully registered and most people understand that when you use that symbol you are telling them you have rights to use that word, phrase or design.  This offers further protection for your business.  Among other ways to protect your mark, the owner of a registered trademark can sue and potentially recover damages and attorneys’ fees.

Types of Trademark Registration

There are two types of trademark registration.

The first type of trademark registration is for existing use of the mark. This means that you are currently using the word, phrase or design, or whatever else you are thinking of trademarking.  An existing use trademark registration will offer protection back to the first claimed use of the mark.

The second type of trademark registration is for anticipated use or an intent-to-use registration. If you file for an intent-to-use registration, the date of filing is considered to be your first day of use. This means is that if you file your intent-to-use registration on March 1 and someone else starts using the word, phrase, or design on March 15, once your mark is registered, the other party has been infringing on your rights to use.  If you are in this position, you may be able to obtain damages and attorneys’ fees.

Have you considered how best to protect your brand?

If you have questions about trademarks, Integrated General Counsel can help you determine your next steps.  If you are ready for a results-driven plan of action, contact us either by telephone at (925) 399-1529, schedule yourself into our calendar for an appointment at a time convenient for you, or complete the Contact Kristen form and we will get back to you.