All About Trademarks and How to Register Them
In today's highly competitive business world, it is crucial that companies set their product and services apart from those of their competitors. Perhaps the best way is to get a trademark. But what is a trademark and how do you go about registering one? Read on to find out.
What is a Trademark?
The main purpose of a trademark is to distinguish a product from a similar good offered by a competitor. A trademark can consist of most anything that distinguishes a company's product from those offered by competitors including symbols, words, phrases, or designs. Less common trademarks often include scents, sounds, and colors.
While the term "service mark" is the appropriate term for marks that distinguish services, the word "trademark" is frequently used to describe marks involving both products and services. Nevertheless, the proper abbreviation for marks involving products is TM, and the proper abbreviation for marks involving services is SM.
Do You Need to Register Your Trademark?
The answer to this question is simple: no, you are not required to register your company's trademark. However, there are many benefits associated with trademark registration. Before companies choose a trademark, they will want to make sure that it is unique. They will then simply need to begin using it consistently.
Consistent use of a trademark establishes a company's common law rights to the mark. Going further, these common law rights protect usage of the mark for the products or services with which it is associated. Businesses using trademarks that are not registered can use the symbols TM or SM to claim ownership rights to their brand names.
Benefits of Registering a Trademark
As mentioned above, there are many great benefits associated with trademark registration. For one thing, registering a trademark will eliminate any worries that a competitor will use the same mark. Registration will also discourage competitors from trying to register marks that are similar.
Another benefit of choosing to register a trademark is that registration will provide nationwide protection. This is not true of unregistered marks, which only provide protection in the immediate geographic area where they will mainly be used. Finally, registering a trademark grants the owner of that mark the ability to seek legal action against competitors who use the same or a similar mark.
A registered trademark is protected only in the country it’s registered. A US trademark is protected only in the USA and there can be, potentially, an identical trademark in Germany.
How to Register a US Trademark
Trademark registration is quite simple; however, businesses seeking a trademark will need to pay close attention to what is required to apply. The entire process can be done online on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website (for a US trademark). On the USPTO's website, navigate to the Trademark Electronic Application System, commonly referred to as TEAS. Here, you will need to submit the following information:
- Your name
- The company's name (if applicable)
- Address for correspondence
- A sketch or drawing of the proposed mark
- A list of products or services that will be associated with the mark
At times, the USPTO may also request that you submit what is known as a "specimen of use." Basically, what this means is that you will need to submit a real object that bears your proposed mark. This object can be an actual product or such things as a label, packaging, an instruction manual, a brochure, or a flyer.
Lastly, you will need to pay the current registration fee set by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. If your application is approved and your trademark is granted for use, you can then use the registered trademark symbol, which is a small r enclosed in a circle - ®.
Businesses looking to distinguish their products or services from similar ones offered by competitors may want to consider creating and using a unique trademark. While trademarks do not need to be registered, unregistered marks only provide minimal protection. Registered trademarks, on the other hand, provide much more protection and offer many other terrific benefits including those discussed above.