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Is your trademark protected if it’s not registered?

On Behalf of | Jan 15, 2023 | Trademarks

You’ve got a word, phrase, design or symbol that’s uniquely yours and identifies your business in all of your marketing. You’ve done the due diligence to make sure you’re not infringing on someone else’s trademark. Do you need to register it with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in order to protect it from infringement by others?

The short answer is that you don’t have to, but it’s certainly a good idea. Here’s why.

Federal registration means less chance of infringement

By registering it with the USPTO, your trademark goes into a searchable database that lets others know about it if they’re considering something identical or very similar. You can also use the registration symbol ® next to your trademark. This alone can deter others who might want to steal it.

Further, if you had to take legal action against someone for infringement, having a registration certificate makes it easier. This is all you need to prove your ownership of this intellectual property (IP).

Can you just register it with the state?

That’s an option. However, that means it’s only protected from infringement within the state where it’s registered. That means if someone used it in Virginia, for example, you might have a harder time requiring them to stop.

You might be able to rely on something called “common law rights.” These protect unregistered trademarks from use within a “particular geographic area,” according to the USPTO.

Whether you decide to register your trademark with the federal government, the state, internationally or not at all is a big decision. It’s important to know the pros and cons of your unique situation. Having experienced legal guidance can help you make the best business decision and also help you protect your intellectual property.