Once you start a company and file your company’s name with your state’s Secretary of State office, that company name is yours, and you can use it wherever you like across the globe. This is different from filing a trademark. A business name registration does not grant you trademark rights. It merely means that a particular state allows you do to business under that name. But, and this can be a little confusing, a business name can also be a trademark. It all depends on how you use it. If you use your business name to identify the source of your goods and services and distinguish them from the goods of another, that’s trademark use. To enjoy the nationwide rights offered by a federal trademark registration, however, you must file an application and receive a registration from the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office).
A trademark (aka “mark”) is a type of intellectual property, such as a word, phrase, symbol, design or a combination of those things, that identifies and distinguishes the goods of one merchant or manufacturer from the goods of others. A trademark can even be a color, sound or smell.
Take Pepsi for example. Pepsi’s mark on their cans consists of the word “pepsi” in distinctive text next to the circular logo we’re familiar with. The combination of the word and logo, that collective design, is their trademark. And when you see it, whether it’s on the side of a semi truck or at a restaurant, you immediately know the source of the beverage. You also know it’s not a competitor’s product, like Coca Cola’s. In this way, a trademark protects a brand.
This is why businesses usually decide to obtain a trademark. They’ve decided they need to protect their brand. That said, is federal registration of your trademark required? The quick answer is “no.” But obtaining a trademark registration enhances your rights. Registering your trademark will give you the following benefits:
-It will give you the legal presumption that you’re the owner of that trademark. Otherwise, this is something that you’d have to prove in or out of court.
-It gives you the legal presumption that you have the exclusive right to use that mark nationwide with the goods and services that are identified in your registration.
-It puts the public on notice that you’re the owner of that trademark. Your trademark would be listed in the USPTO’s database, and your existence in the database can help others avoid selecting a mark that is too similar to yours. Additionally, the USPTO would be able to find your mark when examining another’s application, preventing a potentially conflicting mark from registering.
-You can record your trademark with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which could help block counterfeit products from coming in from other countries.
-You have the right to bring legal action regarding the mark in federal court.
-You can use registration as basis for foreign filing.
-You’d be able to use the federal registration symbol: ®. That’s something you cannot do if you have not federally registered. It puts the public on notice that you have nationwide rights to that mark.
One of the main purposes of filing a trademark with the federal government is to safeguard against the unauthorized use of your brand. But trademarks can also be an essential part of your business. They can be an asset that help your business to grow over time.
Also, just because you have a domain name and a business name, does not mean that you have a trademark registration. You have to use those names as trademarks in order for them to become trademarks. And in order to enjoy the benefits of trademarks, you have to apply and obtain a registration through the USPTO.