A trademark is a symbol, word, device, or name used on marketing materials that identifies a business’s goods or services, distinguishing it from its competitors. Famous examples include the Nike tick and the apple with a bite taken out of it — used by Apple, of course.
It’s different from a trade name, which is simply a business name and does not offer legal protection.
It also differs from a United States patent, which is a privilege granted to an inventor, giving them exclusive rights to make or sell their invention.
You should also know when to use the term trademark or service mark. While a trademark refers to a business name and covers both goods and services, a service mark refers to services only.
You can get state, federal, or international trademark registration certificate, each offering a different level of protection. The key feature of registered trademarks is that they represent a brand and are easily identifiable with it.
Think of your trademark as another asset of your business, bringing many benefits, which we’ll look at in this article. It will help you understand the legal protection a trademark can give and how it can protect your brand’s reputation.
Protection of brand identity and exclusivity
A key benefit of federal registration of a trademark is that it guards your brand identity and exclusivity throughout the United States.
As the trademark owner, you have the exclusive right to use your trademark. The unique character ensures that it can’t be confused with other people’s. It also means that your company’s brand can’t be copied by other businesses, so it’s associated only with your goods and services.
Legal rights and ownership of trademark
The benefits of a trademark registration also include the legal rights it affords. You can take legal action if another person uses a similar trademark that could cause confusion.
A trademark ensures that as the business owner, only you have the right to use it. This helps to protect your brand identity and boost your brand development efforts within the framework of the law.
Prevents others from using a similar or identical mark
Registering at your country’s trademark office is a great deterrent, preventing other people from using a similar or even identical trademark.
It’s a way of giving public notice. Your competitors can do a trademark search on the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) for a trademark to know whether it’s been used before.
The prospect of having a trademark infringement lawsuit actioned against them is usually enough to stop people from using your trademark.
Allows for nationwide enforcement of trademark rights
By registering your trademark with the USPTO, you are helping enforce trademark rights nationwide.
Firstly, your trademark will be searchable in their database. This means that other businesses can follow the correct procedure for finding out whether a trademark has already been used. It also means you are providing appropriate legal notice that you have exclusive rights to the trademark.
Should someone infringe your rights, the enforcement of these steps can be actioned in a federal court according to national law.
Enhances credibility and brand reputation
Benefits of federal trademark registration also include the right to use the ® symbol for your goods and services.
Registered trademark status demonstrates that you have gone through a legal process to protect your brand, showing that you take it seriously. So, it follows that other people will as well.
For example, if buyers are concerned that they may be duped into buying counterfeit goods, the ® symbol gives them assurance that they are dealing with a legitimate company.
A federally registered trademark and the ® symbol are recognized nationwide, giving your brand an additional layer of credibility.
Provides a basis for international trademark registration
Registering your trademark with the USPTO gives you protection in the United States. But what if you want to protect your trademark in foreign countries?
For international trademark protection for imported goods, you will also need to register your trademark in the countries where you seek recognition.
The good news is that if you’ve already registered your trademark in the States, you have the basis for border protection in other countries. File through the Madrid Protocol, an international treaty that enables you to make a single application, and get protection in more than 100 member countries.
You can also file your trademark through individual country consuls.
Facilitates easier domain name registration and social media handles
Trademark benefits extend to social media, too. Registering your trademark means it’s easier to choose and set up your domain name and social media handles.
Having a consistent brand identity is important so that customers recognize you when searching for your goods and services on social media and the internet.
You can also apply for trademark status for certain domain names with the USPTO. Other businesses can’t use the same name as you for their website, protecting your brand identity further.
Increases brand value and potential for licensing and franchising opportunities
Having a registered trademark automatically elevates the value of your brand — it shows that you take it seriously and have put effort into protecting it.
This is invaluable if you ever wish to take advantage of licensing and franchising opportunities.
Trademark registration makes your brand more attractive to potential licensees or franchisees. It’s proof that you’re offering a recognized, unique brand that is protected by law.
Provides a legal defense against trademark infringement claims
If you are ever in a position where another business claims that you have infringed their trademark, then registration will ensure that you can prove this is not the case.
Since it’s registered, your trademark will have incontestable status that will not apply to unregistered trademarks.
And as the registered trademark owner, you have the right to action a lawsuit against anyone copying your trademark or producing one that is so similar that customers may get confused. The legal trademark registration benefits are clear, whether you are actioning a lawsuit or are on the receiving end of one.
Frequently asked questions
How do I register my trademark?
You can register your trademark in the United States on the USPTO site without the help of a law firm. If you are a foreign-domiciled applicant, then you must be represented by an attorney entitled to practice in the United States.
Are there different types of trademark registration?
Yes, you can apply for state trademark registration for a particular geographic area only, for a federal registration throughout the territory of the United States, and for an international registration through the Madrid protocol for over 100 member countries.
What happens if someone else uses my trademark or one that’s very similar?
If you believe someone is infringing or using similar trademarks, you can file a lawsuit in a state or federal court. If the court finds them guilty, they may release a court order to stop the defendant from using your trademark. They may also require any goods bearing the trademark to be destroyed, award damages, or order that the defendant pay your legal fees.