Why Should You Register Your Trademark with the USPTO?

A trademark protects a distinctive word, phrase, or symbol that indicates your services or products. Common law in most states affords fundamental protection to trademarks established simply through usage in business. However, applying for a trademark may be necessary to ensure fuller legal protection if the distinctive phrase or logo gains recognition.

There are two types of trademark registration in the United States: state and federal. A state trademark is issued by a state office, usually the secretary of state or commerce department. A federal trademark is registered through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). A state trademark is usually quick and inexpensive. On the other hand, registering a federal trademark is more costly and complex. However, federal trademark registration also offers broader legal protection. A federal registration gives the right to use the mark exclusively throughout the county, while a state registration only covers the territory of the registered state.

The process for registering a state trademark varies from state to state. The applicant generally fills out a form and attaches a trademark drawing. Filing fees range from around $15.00 to $70.00 per class. The states will then review the application for conflicting registrations in the state’s database. Registering a state trademark is usually a quick process: within a few weeks.

Registering a federal trademark requires the applicant to provide information on the owner, a detailed description of the identified trademark, and characteristics that distinguish the trademark. The current filing fee ranges from $250.00 to $350.00 per class of goods or services associated with the trademark. Federal trademark applications are examined by an examining attorney who will then identify issues with the application. A federal trademark application process takes from several months to a few years. Though the federal trademark application is more extensive, there are also many more benefits.

A federal trademark registration restricts any use of confusingly similar marks. The registered trademark is recorded on a public database. The registration will prevent other similar marks from being filed and/or used in commerce. The federal trademark also grants the right to use the ® symbol for goods and services, whereas a state trademark can only use the superscript “TM.”

Federal trademark also grants the right to sue in federal court in case of infringement. Under the Lanham Act, a person that obtains a federal trademark has superior rights to use the mark throughout the US. If a federal registration is acquired before a similar mark is used in a state, the federal registration has priority over state registration. Courts often rule in favor of federal registration if there is any conflict between a federal and state trademark.

If a mark is used in trade within the state and interstate commerce, you may apply for both a state and federal trademark. Understanding the depth of protection between the two trademark registration systems will help you decide if investing in a federal trademark is necessary.