Register Trademark USA

Registering a trademark in the USA gives you exclusive trademark rights in this country and is a good starting point if you want to secure international protections. Though there are plenty of benefits to registering a trademark in the USA, it's not essential to securing exclusive rights to some types of intellectual property. Learn more about these laws and how you can file a trademark through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

How to Register a Trademark for a Company Name

You can register a trademark through the USPTO website. This organization manages all U.S. trademark applications and will determine whether your application is valid.

The USPTO has several rules for determining whether a trademark can be protected. There are also common law rules governing trademarks in the U.S., so you don't have to officially file a mark for a brand name or logo to enjoy exclusive rights to it. However, there are benefits to registering a federal trademark with the USPTO. This includes:

  • Establishing official ownership of the mark.
  • Establishing official, exclusive rights to use the trademark nationwide.
  • Listing your trademark in the national registration. This will help others find your trademark and avoid infringing on it with their own products or services.
  • Gaining the official right to act against an infringing company in Federal court.
  • Using the U.S. registration to register the trademark in foreign countries.
  • Using the U.S. registration to prevent the import of infringing goods into the United States.

If you don't want to officially register a trademark, you can establish protections for materials such as a brand name or logo using the trademark or service mark designation — “TM” or “SM” — with these materials. In the U.S., this counts as making the public aware of your exclusive rights to use those materials.

You may only use the federal registration symbol — "®" — after the USPTO approves your trademark.

What Types of Applications May Be Filed

A person or business can register a trademark for the following materials:

  • Words
  • Designs
  • Combination marks (text and a brand symbol/icon)

In addition to these traditional marks, a person or business can register nontraditional and nonvisual marks associated with their intellectual property. This includes:

  • Colors
  • Shapes
  • Layouts
  • Sounds
  • Scents
  • Flavors
  • Motion marks
  • Collective marks
  • Certification marks

What Is the Basis for Filing a Trademark Application?

You may file either a use-based or intent-based application. The rights for these types of trademarks are outlined under the Lanham Act.

Use-Based Application

File a use-based application if you're already using the content that you want to trademark.

You'll have to demonstrate that you're using the mark commercially for the USPTO to approve a use-based application. This means you must be using the marked content for commerce that the U.S. Congress lawfully regulates.

You must also include a sworn statement with your application stating:

  • That you're using the mark commercially.
  • The date when you first used the mark.
  • The date when you first used the mark commercially.

The wording needed for this statement is part of the standard application form. You just need to fill in the information and sign the statement.

Intent-to-Use Application

File an intent-to-use application if you plan to use the mark in the future. This reserves the mark for you to use, but it isn't officially registered until you prove that you're using the mark commercially.

You may also file an application via the Madrid Protocol. If approved, this will extend your trademark protections to all countries associated with the International Registration of the World Intellectual Property Organization. You don't file this application directly with the USPTO.

What Are the Requirements to Obtain a Filing Date?

The first step to obtaining a filing date is to perform a search with the Trademark Electronic Search System database. After confirming that an identical or similar mark in the same categories isn't registered, you can move forward with your application. You can file your trademark application online via the Trademark Electronic Application System.

If you want to register a mark that has a design element, you'll have to search for similar or identical marks using a six-digit design code. You can determine your code using the Design Search Code Manual.

U.S. common law grants trademark protection to the first person or business that uses the mark in a certain geographic area. The mark doesn't have to be registered. However, if you decide to register a mark that you've been using and notice that someone else has already officially registered it, you may need to proceed with a lawyer to secure trademark protections.

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