Trademarks are the cornerstone of your company’s brand and it is the first element of your company that consumers see and recognize. Despite its intangible nature, trademarks typically account to close to a third of your company’s value if not more depending on the strength, longevity and goodwill associated with your mark. As such, developing, protecting, enforcing and maintaining your trademark is an upfront investment that will inevitably pay dividends down the road. Below are the top 5 reasons to register your trademark.
- Protection against confusingly similar marks. Having federal trademark protection is akin to having an invisible watchdog protecting your trademark at all hours of the day. Once your trademark has been registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”), it is locked into the federal database that is available to the public 24/7.The gatekeepers of the trademark prosecution process are the examining attorneys that review trademark application submissions. Should a third-party attempt to file a trademark application for a mark that could be confusingly similar to your registered mark, the examiner’s have an obligation to refuse the registration of that mark based on a prior registered mark. This protection is offered for the lifetime of your trademark and the best part is, it comes at no cost to you and most of the time you won’t even know it’s happening!
- Nationwide notice. A registered trademark provides notice to the entire U.S. that you are in fact the owner of the mark. Notice is important because when an applicant files a trademark application, they must submit the following verified statement: “To the best of the signatory's knowledge and belief, no other persons, except, if applicable, concurrent users, have the right to use the mark in commerce, either in the identical form or in such near resemblance as to be likely, when used on or in connection with the goods/services of such other persons, to cause confusion or mistake, or to deceive.” Since registered trademarks provide national notice of use, it makes it hard for a third party to subsequently use your mark and argue that (1) they weren’t aware of prior usage of the mark and (2) they subsequently used the mark in “good faith.”
- Nationwide use. In a country that operates under a first-to-use system such as the U.S., where and when you use your trademark are extremely important details. Without federal trademark protection, you’re only source of protection is common law trademark protection. Common law trademark protection only provides trademark ownership rights in the geographic area where you sold your goods/services. For example, if you only sold your goods in Manhattan under your trademark, you only have trademark rights in Manhattan, meaning another party in Brooklyn could technically use your mark with impunity. However, having a federally registered trademark provides you with ownership rights across the U.S., even if you’ve never stepped foot or sold any of your goods/services in other states.
- The right to use the ® symbol. Unless you have a registered trademark, you are not legally allowed to use the ® symbol which is reserved for federally registered marks. This symbol puts consumers and the general public on notice that you have acquired federal trademark for your mark and as such have the exclusive rights to use the trademark. This notice discourages third party’s from attempting to adopt, steal or use your trademark because it shows that you are protecting your mark and are willing to enforce your mark if necessary.
- The right to sue. Once you acquire federal trademark protection, you now have grounds to enforce your proprietary rights in federal court. Without federal trademark protection, you have no standing to sue if someone adopts and uses your trademark. Imagine investing all your time, energy and resources in your trademark and developing your brand only to have another party use your mark and not have the ability to after them to demand them to stop. Having the right to sue and enforce your rights is the greatest protection afforded by federal registration and in certain circumstances you can obtain treble damages and attorney’s fees which allows you to recover the costs of suing.
The upfront investment to protect your trademark is offset by the peace of mind it provides. Federal trademark registration will give you the confidence to build your brand without fear that someone could take your mark at any time and ride on the coattails of your goodwill.