Unsure about the Florida trademark? While every state has its own trademark requirements, this article will tell you everything you need to know about Florida's trademark application process and use thereof.

What Is the Point of a Trademark?

The point of a trademark is to prevent others using the same, or similar, mark for their service or product. It can be a word, name, symbol, phrase, slogan, or combination thereof that represents your service or product.

It is important to note that Florida offers both trademarks and service marks.

  • Trademark: identify brands or goods. Often known as brand names. Trademarks use the sign ™
  • Service mark: refers specifically to services. Service marks use the sign (SM)

The holder of a trademark is legally liable for the products or services offered under mark.

Trademark Types

Before applying for a Florida trademark, it is a good idea to be clear on how they work. Trademarks and service marks are split into three categories:

  1. Fanciful: invented or symbols or logos — one example is Exxon.
  2. Arbitrary: words that do have meaning but don't relate the product or service — Apple is a good example.
  3. Suggestive: legally distinctive but not as strong as the first two categories

How to Apply for a Florida Trademark

There are a few key steps to registering a trademark in Florida.

First:

  1. Ensure you meet the definition for a trademark by visiting the USPTO website.
  2. Choose your trademark style.
  3. Ensure your trademark is available by completing a thorough search.
  4. Clarify your reasons for filing the trademark or service mark.

Be aware that if a mark creates a likelihood of confusion with an already trademarked sign you could end up in court for infringement. Innocence of prior use is no defense.

As such it is a sensible course of action to begin with a full trademark search and clearance opinion from an attorney. Because trademark rights in the USA arise not from registration but from use, you must ensure a proper, full, common law trademark search of trade directories, business names, and information databases. When deciding on your trademark, it is a good idea to select three, and then search to see if they have been used before in order to ensure you can find one.

Then:

  1. Download the application form and submit, with fees, to the Florida Department of State.
  2. The trademark must be filed under the owner's name (the owner is the one providing the service/goods).
  3. The owner may be an individual or a business. If it is a business, you must specify what type.
  4. Describe the product or the advertising materials where the mark is found.
  5. Submit a drawing of the mark and a specimen or plan of intended use.

Florida trademarks and service marks are established from the first date of use, but you must be able to show evidence of first use.

Registration will generally take up to six weeks to complete. A Florida trademark lasts for five years and must be renewed in the six months prior to expiration.

Note that ideally, all trademarks should be registered and maintained at a federal level.

Ownership of a trademark can be transferred (do ensure to record all transfers).

Benefits to a Florida Trademark

Trademarks themselves are a good idea since the name or logo of a company can often be its most valuable asset. By registering your trademark in Florida, you prevent others using your name or design and provide yourself with positive enforcement powers within the state. Once you have a Florida trademark, you can advertise and promote your goods or services with no fear of plagiarism, knowing that copycats can be taken to court.

How Does the Florida Trademark Differ from a Federal Trademark?

  • While the Federal Statute makes no mention of recording security interests, Florida requires they be recorded via the UCC (FS Chapter 679).
  • There is no Trademark and Appeal Board (TTAB) in Florida. Instead, trademarks can be canceled by the state court.
  • Florida recognizes dilution of famous trademarks, even those only recognizable in Florida. The Federal Famous Trademarks ruling must be recognizable everywhere in the USA.
  • Florida trademarks are less expensive than a federal trademark, and it's easier to apply for one.
  • A Florida trademark, or indeed any other state trademark, is superseded by a federal trademark if one exists.

Common Trademark Errors

  • Assuming that incorporating or forming a business entity with the Secretary of State automatically protects a business
  • Assuming that incorporation is a defense of a trade name, trademark/service mark infringement, unfair competition or anti-dilution claims

If you need help with this search or with registering your trademark in Florida, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.