Unlike many other countries, you do not have to register your own trademark to start selling products or offering services under that mark anywhere in the Unites States. If you simply come up with a trademark and attach that mark to your products and start selling them, your unregistered mark will still enjoy a certain amount of legal protection within your geographical area of usage, assuming your new trademark is not infringing upon someone else’s elder trademark to begin with. You may have heard the term “common law trademark” and that is exactly the term referring to trademarks that are used in commerce without being federally registered. So if someone starts to unfairly compete with you by copying your unregistered “common law” trademark, you might be able to make them stop by going to state court.
Getting a federal registration for your trademark provides some very important advantages and benefits, however. If you are serious about growing your business into something that is more that a small local company, or if you plan to get involved in interstate or e-commerce, then you should seriously look into getting a federal registration certificate for your trademark. These are just some of the benefits of having your mark federally registered:
1) If you ever need to send out a cease and desist letter or sue an infringer, your registration certificate serves as prima facie evidence of your exclusive rights to the mark. “Prima facie” is a legal term that means your exclusive rights to the mark are considered fully established unless your opponent can manage to prove otherwise. That means that your opponents will carry the burden of disproving your rights to the trademark. Bottom line: it can be much easier to win a trademark lawsuit if you own a registration certificate.
2) Your federal trademark registration gives you the right to sue infringers in federal court and, in certain cases, you can obtain treble damages and attorney fees.
3) You can use your U.S. trademark registration as a basis to file applications in numerus foreign countries across the globe.
4) Your federal trademark registration allows you to stop importation of infringing products into the U.S. right at the border by contacting United States Customs and Border Protection.
5) If someone registers your trademark as a domain name in bad faith, you may be able to force them to abandon that domain or transfer it to you.
6) If someone starts using your registered trademark without authorization on social media platforms and online marketplaces (e.g., Facebook, Amazon, etc.) you can submit “take down” requests or trademark infringement complaints to those platforms at stop infringement in its tracks.
7) Some online marketplaces and platforms (notably, Amazon) specifically demand a federal trademark registration certificate is a prerequisite for getting a branded page or being able to stop infringers.
8) You can use the ® symbol with your mark, which itself can act as a great deterrent to potential infringers.
If you want to be successful on the national stage, you probably need a trademark registration, and such a registration can be one on the most important assets of your business.