What Is A Registered Trademark?

So you want to protect your brand and you've heard about something called a registered trademark, but just what is a registered trademark?

Well there are essentially two types of registered trademarks:

  1. Federal Trademarks
  2. State Trademarks

For most people though, when they hear the term "registered trademark" they're probably going to think about a federal trademark, but we'll discuss both below.

Before that though, it's important to understand just what a trademark is and also what a trademark isn't.

The most commonly used definition of a trademark goes something like this:

A word or phrase used to denote the source of goods or services.

Note that we're not talking about denoting the goods or services themselves, rather, the source of the goods or services. That said, trademarks are often the names of the actual goods or service, but this is still for the purpose of denoting the source such.

This may seem like academic minutia, but it goes to the purpose of trademark law, which is protecting consumers from fraud. In other words, trademark protection is actually more for consumers than it is for businesses, at least in theory.

Federal Trademark Registration

Trademarks are registered with the federal government by applying for registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO").

Federal trademark registration can protect a trademark throughout the entire county without requiring registration in each state. Further, holders of federally registered trademarks can apply for international trademark registration through the Madrid Protocol.

Contrary to what many, if not most, people think, significant trademark rights are generally only available to those trademarks that are not descriptive of the goods or services associated therewith. Specifically, those marks that are distinct from the goods or services are afforded the most protection, e.g. "Apple" in association with computers and electronics or "Verizon" in association with telecommunications networks.

Once a trademark application has been submitted to the USPTO, process of federal trademark registration generally takes at between 6 and 9 months if no problems occur.

We'll talk about some of the benefits of federal trademark registration below, but one of the most compelling aspects of federal trademark registration is that the federal government effectively grants a trademark holder a perpetual monopoly as long the trademark holder satisfies the ongoing requirements associated with federal trademark registration, e.g. continued use, renewals, and policing use.

State Trademark Registration

Trademarks are registered with state governments by filling for registration with the appropriate government agency, in most states this is the Secretary of State. Unlike a federal trademark, however, state trademark registration only enables protection for the state-registered trademark in the particular state.

That said, some types of trademarks can't be registered with the USPTO, but can be registered at the state level. However, it's important to keep in mind that federally-registered trademarks that were issued before state registered trademarks are supreme and pre-empt any such state-registered trademark.

Federal Trademark Registration Benefits

We've already talked about one of the benefits of federal trademark registration, i.e. the right to use a trademark nationwide, but there are at least three other principal benefits.

  1. The Right to File For An Injunction
  2. The Right to File For Monetary Damages
  3. The Right to Prohibit Importation

For more information about these 4 trademark benefits, you can read the following post on our blog.

This brief overview of some important considerations associated with federal trademark registration is by no means comprehensive. Always seek the advice of a competent professional when making important financial and legal decisions.

Federal Trademark AttorneySteve Cook is a trademark lawyer at Cook & Cook. Although his main office is located in Mesa, Arizona, he firm represents clients throughout the United States.

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