Updated October 28, 2020: 

People have used a poor man's trademark for years. Also called a poor man's copyright, this entails a person mailing their own art and writing to themselves through the U.S. Postal Service. These pieces of mail are not opened once received. How does an individual profit from this? Mailing an item back to oneself proves that the item was created on a particular date. A poor man's trademark is a copyright that is in place as soon as the piece was made.

Poor Man's Trademark

Making an item official through registration protects it from those who want to copy your work by giving it an official date of when it was made. If the item is damaged by utilizing the U.S. mail, you cannot receive damages. It is a good idea to pay $55 to register your work and get it protected. There are many benefits to having an item registered with a copyright.

A trademark is a way to make your brand and company stand out from others. A trademark could be a name, color, or logo. It begins as soon as it is used and does not need to be registered. To protect your trademark, it's a good idea to get it registered in the United States. If someone were to use your registered trademark without your permission, they could get penalized.

The poor man's trademark gives you no protection over your copyright and is not a safe way to have others recognize your copyright. Receiving a copy of your logo that you mailed to yourself does nothing to protect you or the logo you created. Even though registration can be pricey, having your trademark protected will help you in the long run.

Common Trademark Mistakes

Customers want to recognize businesses and what they can do. A trademark allows customers to do so. Your enterprise uses lots of time and money to create products for customers, and you need to find a way to let customers know what kind of products your business sells.

Here are some ways to avoid errors and misinterpretations about trademarks:

  • Do not just search for what is registered. Look for trademarks that have already been made.
  • Do not ignore abandoned or canceled trademarks.
  • Usage of trademarks still gives businesses rights to the trademark even if it is not registered or has not been maintained.
  • Trademark rights may still apply even if the trademark has not been registered.

Common law trademark rights are restricted to geographical areas. Nationwide rights are given once you register at the federal level.

If the trademark was owned by another company in the past, the owners still have rights at the federal and common law level. Placing a "TM" next to your trademark only gives you rights in the area where you are doing business under common law trademark rights. If your trademark is not registered at the federal level, another business can get federal protection for the same trademark.

Do not base your trademark just on what your business can do. The U.S. Patent and Trademark office will most likely reject trademarks that are "merely descriptive." Your competition can use precise ways to describe their services and goods, which is a reason that a descriptive trademark is dismissed. You are more likely to register a name not related to your business.

Another common mistake is believing your trademark can describe all your services and goods. Services and goods are broken up into different categories. You can own a trademark within one class, but another company can still use it in another category. If the ways in which you and another business use the same trademark are so similar that it causes confusion, this can be a reason for a trademark to be restricted.

Do not expect to be able to use a given trademark for a variety of goods and services. This is further explained above. The wrong question to ask is, "What might I use this trademark on?" You must use the registered trademark for all services and goods listed. Otherwise, your registration will be canceled. Keep in mind that you want to get as much protection as you can on your trademark.

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