Trademark Protection In the US: What Are My Legal Rights?

Create Time 2017-08-28 01:08    Views:19213

What is a Common Law Trademark?

If you are operating a business in the U.S., or you hope to soon establish a business in the U.S., you should be aware of what’s called “common law rights” in relation to trademarks.

You might be thinking, I haven’t even registered for a trademark yet. My business is barely off the ground! How is it that I already have certain “rights”? In short, “common law rights” may very well protect the goods and services that your business currently provides, even if you haven’t yet filed a federal trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trade Office (USPTO).  

What common law means: you, the business owner, are entitled to the legal use of the superscript “TM” and its respective protection under trademark law.

What can qualify as a common law trademark ranges from business or product names, logos, design elements, and even company taglines. (In fact, even audio clips/sounds/melodies can fall within the umbrella of common law protection, assuming it pertains to the goods, services, and/or identification of your business).

And even better news: these rights will immediately apply upon the first use of the trademark(s) in your respective business area’s commerce.

What Can Common Law Trademarks Do for Your Business?

You and your business are doing well, but you’re busy! That means working around the clock to build a loyal customer base, expand your brand recognition, and increase sales.

While driving to work one day, you notice a “grand opening” sign and a lineup of familiar customers outside a new business. The problem is that this business looks identical to your own! You might think this scenario is far-fetched, but it happens more often in today’s saturated marketplace than ever before.

This is where the good news of “common law rights” comes into play -- small business owners and entrepreneurs like yourself can rely on state-governed trademark rights to keep competing for (or copycat) businesses from utilizing your company’s design elements, logos, taglines, etc. to boost their own business!

This means that you have the right to pursue these competitors and shut down their use of your company’s common law trademark(s).

But hold on: the difference between a common law trademark and a federally-filed trademark (under the USPTO) is that the former is created under the governed rights of your state’s laws, and is therefore not a federal statute.

This means that your trademark protection under “common law” is limited to a specific geographic area. This protection is also only valid if your use of the trademark has been continual and deliberate in the goods and services of your business.

If I’m Protected Locally, Why Even Bother Going Through a Federal Registration with the USPTO?

It’s a good question: with common law protection sounding so good, what’s the point in registering federally?

For starters, federal registration is essential if you ever plan to conduct business outside of your business’ local jurisdiction. (Remember, common law rights are state-governed, which means they are limited to your business’ respective geographic area).

Since many business owners and entrepreneurs plan to extend their services across the U.S., federal registration becomes a necessary step in expansion. Federally-registered trademarks are also granted a higher degree of protection in federal courts than their common law counterparts. For instance, USPTO-registered trademarks can qualify you to recover lost profits, statutory damages, and even trademark-related attorney’s fees.  

Given the globalization of today’s marketplace, it is now ubiquitous for companies to begin operating outside of state lines, especially when you begin to see success and growth early on!

All of this hard work should not be in vain; it’s not worth losing thousands of dollars, countless hours, and the loyalty of your customer base due to a lack of federal trademark protection.

Witmart is Here to Make These Decisions Easier

If you’re thinking that federal trademark registration is a good idea, don’t worry! Registration with the USPTO has never been simpler! Witmart will conduct a free comprehensive trademark search to let you know the likelihood of your registration success.

If you’re starting a new business, looking to rebrand, or just plain stuck on coming up with a great trademark name then take advantage of our name consultation service to find the most suitable business name. 

As a long-standing trademark registration service, Witmart understands that navigating the trademark process, and knowing what options are available to you, can be both challenging and time-consuming. This is why we ensure that our customers are informed, protected, and satisfied every step of the way.

Free Comprehensive Search