registering a trademark

Registering a Trademark in the USA: Why and How

If you have just started a new business, you don’t necessarily need to go through the USA trademark registration process to operate. Once you start using a given “mark” to represent your business — a business name, logo, symbol, etc. — common law affords you a great deal of protection against people who might want to improperly use your mark. And people who might want to mislead consumers by using marks similar to yours.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that there is no point in registering a trademark.

Why registering a trademark is important

The biggest advantage of having a registered trademark is getting nationwide protection. Trademarks are counted as if used nationwide from the moment you apply for trademark protection from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. That’s important because common law once protects trademarks within the areas where they are commonly used and/or recognized.

One good way to visualize this is a Bakery. If by happenstance two bakeries — one located in California and another located in New York — end up both named “John’s Cakes” and both end up having similar logos and stylings, common law doesn’t allow one to sue the other. That’s because the customer base from the California bakery is unlikely to ever see the one in New York, much less confusing one for the other.

However, if one bakery gets trademark protection for their logo and name, they will have much more force to protect their branding against other stores with similar names operating in the same market. This is important if the California bakery hopes to expand into a national chain of bakeries.

Added trademark protection is the main purpose of trademark registration. And while this means that you don’t technically need to register a trademark if you intend for your business to stay local, registering it is still the safer option. After all, the process isn’t that expensive, and having a trademark and not needing it is better than needing it and not having it.

How to register a trademark in the USA

Getting your trademark application approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is quite a technical endeavor. First and foremost, you need to make sure trademark protection is the right type of protection for your pursues.

Trademarks are a type of intellectual property protection used to secure the words or symbols used to represent your company as your product. It is not to be confused with patents or copyrights. If you don’t know the difference between the three, look it up to make sure you’re choosing the right one.

The next step is to contact a trademark registration company or a law firm to walk you through the rest of the process. They can help you figure out whether your chosen symbols are electable to be trademarked, help you do preliminary research to see if a similar trademark has been registered before, and work with you to fill in your USPTO trademark application.

You don’t technically need professional help to apply for a trademark. But given the complexity of the process, working with one is advised.

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