Why are some trademarks registered and some unregistered?

On Behalf of | Jun 24, 2022 | Trademarks |

Trademarks protect ownership of words, phrases, designs, or a combination of them used in defining or distinguishing goods. Services use a service mark, which affords the same type of protection. People can register their trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or the business can eschew the application process and go straight into commercial use, which protects it through common law. Depending upon the business’s objectives and the goods or services for the mark, they can weigh their best option.

Protection by use

This is generally done by legitimately selling the goods or services to the point where they are professionally associated with a particular business. Generally, the first to create the goods or services owns a common law mark. Still, larger or better-funded companies create similar products or services that try to overshadow the original. This can lead to disputes. Those with a common law trademark use the ™ symbol or an SM for a service mark.

Protection by registration

Registering a trademark provides the owner with additional protections of their mark. It can be especially useful if there is a likelihood of infringement. Protections include:

  • Serves notice to others that the registrant owns the mark.
  • It announces a legal presumption of owning the mark and the exclusive right to use it nationally or in relation to the goods and services. For example, several companies may use the word Apple as a name, but there can only be one Apple computer.
  • A registered mark better ensures success in disputes handled by a federal court.
  • A registered mark helps the owner apply for similar protections in foreign markets.
  • It offers protection against importers who bring in similar goods that violate the trademark in this country.

Those with a registered trademark also can use the ® symbol on their labeling and product information. The character can act as a warning to those planning to dispute the applicant’s ownership.

Not sure what to do?

Many businesses have goods and services worth protecting. While it is not always necessary or possible to register goods or services, an experienced intellectual property attorney can guide potential applicants on what is their best option.

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