Trademark law developed through English common law, and by simply using a trademark, a trademark owner is afforded property rights and legal protections to their trademark. However, seeking a federal trademark registration with the the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provide trademark owners additional benefits they would not receive if they solely relied on their common law rights. In general, the benefits of federal trademark registration include putting competitors on notice of your rights to a trademark and making it easier to sue competitors who infringe on your trademark rights.
Benefits provided by federal trademark registration include:
1. A federal trademark registration allows the owner of the trademark to use the ® symbol after the mark. This allows consumers and competitors to know that the trademark is federally protected. It also gives credibility to the product or service in the mind of consumers knowing the trademark owner invested the time and money in receiving a trademark registration, even if they do not fully understand or know what that exactly means.
2. Federal trademark registration puts all competitors on notice that they cannot use a confusingly similar trademark for related goods or services. Competitors will be able to easily search and find trademarks in the USPTO. The USPTO database serves as a warning to anyone considering entering a commercial area to avoid using terms, phrases, logos or other designs that incorporate fully or partially the trademarks of a competitor in the field.
3. Once a trademark is registered at the USPTO, no one can register a confusingly similar trademark in connection with similar goods and/or services. In other words, the government will help protect your trademark rights without any special attention or additional money. It is nice to have the force of the federal government on your side for a change!
4. Unlike mere common law protection, a federal trademark registration provides trademark protection nationwide. In other words, a New England brewer will receive trademark protection for their beer across the United States rather than just in the local market. So if they hope to expand to other regions at a later date, the path will be cleared for them from a trademark perspective.
5. A federal trademark registration creates a presumption that the trademark is valid and exclusively owned by the listed owner on the trademark register. The presumption of validity and exclusive ownership is especially helpful when bringing a case against an infringer in court, as it will be up to the infringer to rebut the presumption given by the USPTO that the trademark is not actually valid or exclusively owned by the listed trademark owner on the USPTO register. In essence, the presumption of validity allows the owner of a trademark to more easily bring a trademark infringement case to federal court because the court will presume the trademark is valid and exclusively owned by the listed owner on the register.
6. In addition to allowing a civil case to be brought in federal court with the presumption of validity, a trademark registration allows the court to give treble damages, attorney fees and more at the court’s discretion. Bringing a federal trademark infringement case can be costly and expensive. Courts are allowed to offset these costs incurred by trademark owners when it is shown the infringer acted in bad faith.
7. In addition to making civil cases in federal court against trademark infringers easier to prove, a federal trademark registration also allows trademark owners to bring a counterfeiting case to federal court easier too. In addition, an owner of a federal trademark registration can empower US Customs to block counterfeit imports that infringe on your trademark rights. Once again, the federal government will act on your behalf!
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