Trademark Registration: Introduction

Wondering why register trademark? If you want to have a successful business, you'll need to protect your intellectual property. Warren Buffett, a successful investor, has referred to successful companies as figurative castles with moats that can't be breached. In that metaphor, the castle signifies the service or product, while the moat represents the ability of the business to create and sustain a commercial advantage in a market with a lot of competition.

Protecting your intellectual property is a critical aspect of defending your idea and product from competitors. The global market is expanding rapidly, thanks in large part to the accessibility of items online. The internet is full of knock-off and counterfeit items, so trademark protection is the only way to prevent this from happening to your business.

A trademark refers to a symbol, image, logo, or other mark that sets your services or goods apart from those offered by your competitors. A trademark can also be a sound, shape, or color, although these are less common. Not only does a trademark define where the goods or services came from, which represents the quality of the item and gives accountability to that business, but it also builds the brand image. This image can attract customers through advertising, marketing, and presentation efforts.

When you register your trademark, you can take advantage of the peace of mind that comes with protection. No legal requirements exist for companies to register trademarks, but without proper registration, your business will lose out on the maximum protection. As a service or product becomes more popular and successful, the trademark holds its own value as well. As you seek investments for your business, those you solicit will consider whether you hold enough protection on the brand from a legal standpoint.

According to The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a company's trademark holds protection when it is in use, as long as it doesn't infringe on another registered mark.

Benefits of Having a Registered Trademark

When you register a trademark, the amount of protection it holds will increase. Additionally, registration deters competitors from copying your trademark and affords you legal protection that will hold up in court if someone does infringe upon the mark. One benefit is greater protection. When you register a trademark, this action typically protects your business's logo or name, which can be one of the most valuable assets. The owner of the trademark holds protection across the entire nation.

Should you choose not to register your mark, you could later find that another company is already using a similar business name or logo. This problematic situation often results in the need to redo all signage, business cards, advertising, stationery, and other printed materials. Although there is some protection in common-law trademark laws, it is much more challenging, time-consuming, and expensive to take legal action against a competitor for a mark that hasn't been registered. 

If your business was using a name that already exists, you could end up having to change your registered domain name as well. Changing the name of a business due to trademark infringement is confusing to your customers and may deter them from using your business. Additionally, you might lose the right to expand your business without taking proper steps to register the trademark.

With trademark protection, you hold all legal rights and can take legal action against anyone who uses the mark. Those who do so are presumed to be infringing willfully, which means you could receive monetary damages for any losses during the period in which they were using your trademark. When you register your mark, the likelihood of someone else trying to claim infringement is much lower.

In the past, business owners often had to hurry to get their products to market in order to claim trademark protection, since the USPTO required the mark to be in use to qualify. If another business were to sell a product even just a day or two ahead of your business, it would have beat you to market and would hold the rights to trademark protection.

However, the USPTO now allows business owners to file an application for intent to use. If this application is approved, you will hold the same trademark protections as long as you submit proof of actual use of services or goods that display the mark.

If you need help with why you should register a trademark, 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.