You may be asking yourself if you really need to file for trademark registration. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons and common questions so you can determine what works best for your individual situation.
What is a trademark? A trademark is a registered symbol or sign that is created to distinguish a product from its competitors. It can be a logo, a name, a shape, a color, a sound, a slogan, or even a domain name. It can also be any combination of these. It must be distinctive for it to become registered as a trademark. This means that it must not be similar or identical to other trademarks. It also must not be deceptive or confusing to consumers.
What do the symbols associated with a trademark mean?
- ™ is used for an unregistered trademark or a trademark for which protection has been applied but not yet granted
- ® is used for a registered trademark
How long does trademark registration last? The duration of a trademark’s registration in the U.S. is 10 years of continued use, after which it must be renewed.
Does filing for trademark registration in the U.S. provide protection in the U.S. only? Yes, a trademark is protected by registering it in a specific territory or country. Each country has its own rules and regulations regarding registration. The registration process can be expensive if done in several countries, so the risk of not registering should be considered when making the decision about whether and where to register.
How do you get started? Registration of a trademark usually starts with a search to see if there are any conflicting or similar trademarks. An attorney can prepare the application for you. In the U.S., the application is analyzed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office to determine if the proposed trademark meets the necessary legal criteria for registration. It must distinguish the goods or services without confusing or deceiving the consumers. If there are any challenges from third parties, who might have similar trademarks registered, these challenges must be addressed before registration is confirmed.
What are the advantages?
- Registering a trademark allows the owner to control who uses it and how it is used
- Registration gives the owner exclusive rights to the use of the property. This will deter others from misusing it or pretending that someone else is the owner.
- Registering a trademark allows the owner to take legal action against anyone who uses the trademark without permission, and to be compensated for misuse.
What are the disadvantages?
- There is a cost to register and in some circumstances registration can be expensive.
- Not all symbols can be registered.
- Registration needs to be renewed every 10 years.
- For registration, you must be using or intend to use the trademark and you must show how you are using it.
- Registration is limited to a particular country. To protect trademarks in countries other than the U.S., additional registrations are required.
What are the Dos and Don’ts to consider?
- Consider registering your trademarks.
- Balance the cost of registering against the risk and complications of being unprotected.
- Involve your attorney in the evaluation of both the risks and potential benefits of registering your trademarks.
- Decide carefully what countries you will protection in.
- Don’t think that having a trademark will give you protection without registration.
- Don’t assume that all trademarks can be registered.
- Don’t ignore an infringement of your trademark.
If you want more information on filing trademarks in the U.S. check out the USPTO website http://www.uspto.gov/faq/trademarks.jsp or leave a comment/question. Good luck!