A trademark is a name, word, symbol or device used in trade to indicate the source of a good and to distinguish it from other goods. Service marks are the same as trademarks, except the source is a service instead of a product, and the service mark is thus used to identify and distinguish the source of that service. “Trademark and “mark” generally refer to both service marks and trademarks.
Your business likely has certain designs and logos that are unique to the business and its products. The marks help identify the brand and set you apart from the competition. It can be confusing for consumers when other companies use the same (or similar) designs for their products, so protecting your trademark is vitally important.
Benefits of Registering Your Trademark
Both trademarks and service marks are legally protected by common law once they go into commercial use. However, it is often helpful to register your mark for the following reasons.
- Your attorney will ensure a thorough trademark search before registering.
- If another company already has your business’s name, or a name that is very similar, you will have to change all of your stationery, business cards, advertising, signs, and your domain name.
- If you need to change the name of your business because someone else has already been using it, you could lose customers from confusion.
- By registering your mark, you have the exclusive right to use the mark within your geographical area.
- Not registering the mark means you might not be able to expand outside of the original business area.
- If someone else uses your registered mark, he or she is considered to be willfully infringing, and you may get monetary damages due to the infringement.
- If your mark is registered with the state, you may qualify for states’ laws, which provide additional protection.
- The federal registration will serve as constructive notice to the country as a whole, even if you don’t to business nationally.
- If you use a mark without registering it and a registered owner has the same mark or one that is very similar, the owner can sue you for infringement.
- If you are an infringer, you might have to rename your company immediately; pay punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and fines; and relinquish any profits you’ve earned while using the unregistered mark.
While trademarks and service marks are most common, trade dress can also be protected by the USPTO. “Trade dress” refers to distinctive packing, such as Tiffany & Co.’s distinctive color and box type used to sell its jewelry. Trade dress doesn’t just refer to boxes, it can also include the use of distinctive colors, shapes and décor. Sometimes you can even get legal protection for your website if it has a unique look and feel. Since the goal of trade dress is similar to that of trademark law, that is, to use distinctive features for identifying goods and products, trade dress can usually be registered as well. Trade dress is considered a type of trademark or service mark, and it can therefore be protected under the federal trademark laws.
When to Use Trademark Symbols
Before you register your mark, you can use the designation of “TM” or “SM” for trademark or service mark, which alerts the public to your claimed rights. Once you register your trademark, you can use “®”, the federal registration symbol. However, you can’t use this symbol while the application is pending. Additionally, the registration symbol can only be used with the mark when it is connected to the goods and services you have listed in the your federal trademark registration.
Registering your trademark can protect your business from infringement and help prevent you from accidentally infringing on others.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.