Businesses can own a trademark and protect their brands without registering the marks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), but registration provides valuable benefits.
At their core, trademark ownership and rights are based on usage of the brand. Merely using a trademark creates strong and federally protectable rights in the territories where the owner offers its goods and services under that brand.
Federal registration adds a number of benefits, the strongest being that a registrant’s territory is deemed to be the entire United States. Registration also provides a presumption that the mark is valid, it can help stop infringing imports and it can be the basis for filing trademarks in other countries. In the marketplace, a registration acts as a deterrent, because a different business intending to use a similar mark would likely search the online registry at the USPTO and see the registrant’s preexisting rights and choose to use a different brand. Also, certain online entities and social media platforms, including domain name dispute arbitration panels, give greater deference to a registered trademark, than to rights based on common law unregistered usage, and will use the registration as a basis for denying of the mark by a later adopter. Registration also provides the ability to file an application based on the intent to use the mark in the future, which creates an all-important priority date even before a business actually uses its mark. This filing date will be effective against any subsequent users, so long as the mark is eventually used and registered.
Although businesses remaining localized have less incentive to obtain a registration than those considering expansion, they are better served by registering their trademark due to the benefits afforded by registration.
Ned T. Himmelrich
410-576-4171 • NHimmelrich@gfrlaw.com