Trademarks can be a significant asset for any business, even a small business. But what type of trademark you want to obtain, a federal trademark registration or state trademark registration? Filing a trademark application is an excellent step to take to protect your name slogan or logo. It is, however, important to understand that not all trademarks are created equal. While every state allows you to obtain a trademark registration, federal trademark registration provides the greatest right. This is because when you obtain a United States federal trademark your right will exist throughout the country and not just one in particular geographic locality.
State Trademark Registration
State Trademark does not give protection for the entire state of registration and they do not allow you to use the familiar trademark symbol. With a state trademark registration, you get limited protection only where you are actually using the trademark, but if you have a product that could be counterfeited you really should seek a trademark registration. There are advantages to having the state registration when fighting counterfeiters, which is growing concern for all brand owners. States have concurrent jurisdiction with the federal government in trademark disputes and it might be very difficult to get federal government assistance in a fight against counterfeiters, it might be easier to get state and local authorities to help if you can have a state trademark. The laws will vary from state to state, so if you do have a product that may be counterfeited speaking with a knowledgeable trademark professional about both federal and state trademarks is well worth your while.
Trademark serve multiple purposes, but there are two primary purposes. First, trademark identifies and distinguish either goods and services of one manufacturer or seller of goods and service manufactured or sold by others. The second trademark indicates the source of goods and service. In short, a trademark is a brand name that you will use in commerce.
Federal Trademark Registration
If you elect to move forward with obtaining a federal trademark registration, which is strongly recommended, the first step to acquiring federal trademark rights, requires use in commerce. Namely, you can,
- start using the slogan, name or logo in commerce and then subsequently file a trademark application.
- File an intent to use application which will lock in your filling date but does not require immediate use. The intent to use application is essentially a reservation mark for a limited period of time. You eventually have to start using the trademark in commerce, but if you are not yet using the mark in commerce this is the way to go. Additionally, the use of commerce will need to be interstate commerce.
With respect to actually filing a trademark application, there are essentially two options. First, you can do it yourself. Second, you can hire an attorney. Filing a trademark application is not as easy as it might seem due to the fact that it can be difficult, if not impossible, to amend an application if you make a mistake at the time of filing. Indeed, in many situations when filing mistakes are made the cheapest solution will be to simply file a second application properly, but that creates a delay in acquiring rights. That being the case, and the relatively inexpensive cost of hiring an attorney to do it right from the start, I generally recommend hiring an attorney.