A Guide to Trademarks in the United States

 As businesses and startups grow, the need for trademarks is also growing considerably. The companies are recognizing the exceptional abilities of trademarks in boosting their business performance. More and more startups and businesses are applying at USPTO for registering trademark in US.

What is a Trademark?

A trademark can be a word, symbol, phrase, or logo that helps to identify a company and cits products. As these marks are different, it gets easy for consumers to remember and distinguish the products and services from other competitors. With time, a company’s mark helps to build a brand’s identity and represents the brand’s offered quality. Also, the use of a mark determines its ownership.

A trade mark may include a wide range from device, brand, heading, label, logo, business name, signature, word, letter, numerals, shape of goods, packaging, color combinations of colors, etc. The only rule for something to become a registered mark is that it must be able to distinguish the goods or services of one company or brand from that of another.

What Are the Benefits of Registering a Trademark?

As the process of registering a mark is lengthy and complex, many owners refrain from registering their mark. But, there are many benefits of registring a mark, such as:

  • Trade mark registration with USPTO comes with legal protection from infringement and trademark dilution. If someone else tries to use a similar mark for the same types of products or services, you will have the option of initiating a lawsuit.
  • If the litigations end up in your favor, the federal court will prohibit the other party from using the mark.
  • Even during the legal process for infringement of a registered mark, the burden of proof is on the defendant.
  • If someone infringes upon your mark, i.e., causes a “likelihood of confusion” among the customers, the owner of the registered mark can recover damages, trademark attorney’s fees, and other relevant costs.
  • If a company is using a similar mark in some other US state, they can’t claim territorial rights for the mark as it is already registered.
  • Also, a federal trade mark registration with USPTO is useful if you want protection from infringement in other nations.
  • The protection under trade mark law also assures the mark owner no infringer will be able to will reap the financial and reputation-related benefits associated with a desirable product.
  • A registered mark will also help to build a credible name of your company in the market in the long –term. Trademark registration safeguards a company’s goodwill and also helps consumers identify the source of their purchases.

Therefore, trademark registration motivates the owner to produce better quality products. Additionally, there is no scope for the customers to confuse a similar-looking inferior quality product for the superior one. Thus, it eliminates the likelihood of confusion among customers.

What is the Trademark Law in the USA?

Until 1870, the USA had no federal trademark framework. From colonial times till 1870, the state common law protected the US trademarks. In 1870, the Congress made the first attempt to constitute a framework for federal trademark registration. But, the Supreme Court truncated the 1870 statute in the Trademark cases, 1881.

             In 1946, the Congress passed the Lanham Act that still governs trademarks in the United States. The Lanham act provides for federal trademark protection and rules governing registration of marks. Under the Lanham Act, USPTO is the authority responsible for administrating trademarks and relevant procedures. 

What is the difference between state laws and the Lanham act?

As soon as a business starts using a name, word, or phrase in the industry; it gets trade mark rights under Common law. There is no need to register the mark with USPTO for getting protection under common laws. The common law rights for in-use but not registered marks are enforceable in state courts. But trademarks registered with U.S. Patent and Trademark Office have higher protection than unregistered marks. Thus, a registered mark gives you protection under the Lanham act as well as state laws.

Registering a mark also prevents the competitors from copying or infringing upon a source-identifying mark. This in turn reduces the shopping costs and makes buying decisions easy. This is because a mark provides a visible and quick assurance to the customer that this particular item with this mark, is produced by the same brand as other marked products that the customer has liked or disliked in the past.

Types of Trademark Rights

  1. Common Law: The sign represents a mark protected under common law. For getting protection under common state laws, the companies need not register their mark with the USPTO. As soon as a business uses a brand name or logo in public, it automatically gets rights and protection under common law.
  2. Federal Trademark: The sign ®represents a mark registered with USPTO. A registered mark undergoes a series of stages including filing, review, opposition, and approval. 
         Common-Law Trademark   Federal trademark  
  Mere usage of the mark provides protection under common law. There is no compulsion of registering the trademark.  The mark needs to be registered with the USPTO, mere usage does not provide federal protection.
  Represented by Represented by ®  
  Comparatively lower trademark protection  The registered trademark gets a higher degree of protection against infringement and trademark dilution.   
  The usage of common law trademarks is initially restricted to the geographical area in which you market your goods or services. Businesses in other parts of the country are entitled to use the same mark.  Trademark registration with the USPTO allows you to have nationwide trademark rights, given someone else is not already using the same trademark in a particular geographic area. In such a case, the person who was already using the mark will get the rights even if his trademark is unregistered.  
Common Law Trademark vs Federal Trademark

Generic words can not become registered marks unless they have a second meaning. A proposed mark should be suggestive, fanciful, or descriptive to become a registered mark.

Why Choose TMReady for all your Trade mark Needs?

Are you facing issues in getting your trademark registered? Don’t worry, TMReady has the solution. We offer a comprehensive solution for all trade mark needs. Ranging from trademark search to monitoringwe have solutions for all issues. The process of registration is complex, especially for a beginner. It includes various stages, documentations, and further procedures. Therefore, you need to hire a professional for getting the work done. At TMReady, our expert team of professionals makes sure to provide the best trade mark search and monitoring services. Do you have any more queries? Visit us here to get your answers.

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