Imagine the logos of well-known companies, such as Apple, Starbucks, or McDonald’s.
They are all registered trademarks, which means that their business owners register their trademarks with government agencies.
However, it is not always necessary to register a logo or brand to be considered a trademark.
Unregistered trademarks are trademarks that have not been registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office USPTO or any government trademark office.
However, unregistered trademark owners have legal rights in the region where they operate.
They are sometimes called common law trademarks because they are protected by state unfair competition laws.
However, there are tons of advantages of having your brand, business, logo or even a website registered with a trademark.
Companies must stand out in the market.
Bold names and eye-catching logos can help consumers differentiate your company’s products or services from competitors.
In the Internet age, when companies across the country compete with each other to sell their products online, brands become more and more important.
That’s why having your brand registered with a trademark allows you to stay one step ahead of your competitors.
What makes a company eligible for trademark registration?
Any word, name, device or combination of symbols, equipment or combinations used by a person to distinguish other people’s products and services and to indicate the source of the products and services, even if the source is unknown.
Symbols or equipment contain three-dimensional marks, including product pictures; non-visual signs containing sounds and smells; moving signs; colors or color combinations; and repeated patterns.
Trademark Law in the United States
Trademark laws require manufacturers or distributors to use words, phrases, symbols, product shapes, or logos to distinguish their products from those produced or sold by other manufacturers.
Service marks used to refer to services rather than products are also subject to the Trademark Law.
According to the common law of the United States, certain trademark rights stem only from the use of the trademark.
However, for the best trademark protection, it is almost always a good idea to register your trademark with the federal government or the state government.
National registered trademarks must bear the ® symbol.
Unregistered trademarks must be marked as “tm”, and unregistered service marks must be marked as “sm”.
Is federal trademark registration beneficial?
It is important to note that trademark registration is not required.
You can obtain common law trademark rights by using trademarks, names or logos in businesses in the community.
However, you can also register a trademark nationwide.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the federal agency accountable for dispensing and upholding trademarks.
It is true that registration is a bureaucratic process to some extent, with almost no subscriptions, accounts and hassle.
But the federal registry has many advantages.
Legal concerns regarding registering the domain names
You need to have a web address or uniform resource locator (URL) for someone to view your website.
Your URL is usually associated with your company name or certain functions it performs.
Of course, this is not necessary.
Many people make a living by buying domain names and expect someone to be interested in URLs and sell them at high prices.
It is not enough to determine whether the domain name is available for registration.
Companies should consider conducting trademark searches with experienced lawyers or use online trademark services to determine whether the choice of domain names will bring opportunities for trademark infringement.
Please note that although you may have never heard of a company in your country, recognised companies in the region may claim infringement lawsuits since the Internet is almost everywhere in the world.
If the hosting company is threatened by legal proceedings, it can sue you or your company for losses caused by the violation.
Similarly, you may be directly liable to the owner of the original intellectual property, which means you may have participated in multiple corporate litigations.
Correct use of the trademark
Even a registered trademark can lose its distinctiveness due to its widespread use.
If the designation has become a generic concept, that is, it has acquired the character of a common one and cannot serve to individualize the activities of a certain manufacturer, then legal protection is not provided to it.
To prevent this from happening, you must adhere to the following rules:
- The trademark should be used in conjunction with the legal protection mark ® confirming its official registration. In foreign countries, the TM symbol is also widespread, which indicates that an application for a trademark has already been filed, but it has not yet been registered.
- When developing a designation, it is recommended to use techniques that make it stronger, that is, to increase its distinctiveness.
- The trademark must be used exactly as it was registered. Making changes “weakens” it.
- Clear guidelines for the correct use of the trademark and corporate identity need to be developed for distributors and suppliers.
The core of legal protection of trademarks
The essence of legal protection of a trademark is to provide its owner with the possibility of unlimited use of the mark, excluding all other persons from the number of users.
The trademark right is absolute.
No one except the authorised person may use the sign.
Any use of the mark by others without the consent of the copyright holder constitutes an offense. It should be remembered that the validity of the right to a trademark is limited to:
- The list of goods indicated in the certificate
- The territory of the country of registration
- The period for which this trademark is registered.
Registration of trademark licenses for various business entities
A license agreement for the use of a trademark has obvious advantages for all business participants involved in signing it.
A trademark license agreement protects the rights of both parties.
However, at times, a brand fee may seem unreasonable or overpriced to some entrepreneur.
It should be remembered that the use of a trademark without the consent of the copyright holder is prosecuted by the laws of each country.