Trademarks are words, symbols, or logos that a company uses when selling its products or services.
If you have a business, chances are you are using or plan on using some kind of logo or word to represent your company. A trademark helps protect that symbol or word and prevent other people from using it. There would otherwise be nothing preventing others from selling a similar product with your logo. Customers would think that they were actually purchasing something from you. If the other company produced defective or poor quality products customers might associate those products with your business and decide to never again purchase anything from you.
To prevent any of that from happening, you can register your trademark with the government. Registration requires that you perform a trademark search and submit an application. Legal Ace has made the process easy. All you do is fill out our online questionnaire and we can take care of the rest.
Trademarks protect words, names, symbols, sounds, or devices that are used or intended to be used in association with goods/services in commerce. A trademark distinguishes goods and services provided by one entity from goods and services produced or provided by another. Trademarks can be registered at the state or federal level.
A common law trademark arises when a mark has been used in commerce but is not registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office or a specific state. A common law mark provides the owner the least protection against others using the same or a similar mark. Common law status might provide general protection over a limited geographical region provided the owner can show legally recognizable documentation of the mark's first and continual use.
State trademarks protect your mark in a specific state while federal trademarks generally protect your mark in all states. Therefore, state trademarks generally afford less geographical legal protection than federal trademarks. Businesses operating in only one state may wish to trademark their mark in the state where they do business. On the other hand, those businesses operating in interstate commerce may wish to seek a federal trademark.
For goods, interstate commerce involves shipping goods across state lines. For services, interstate commerce involves providing any service in another state or a service that affects interstate commerce such as gas stations, hotels, restaurants, websites, etc.
The main benefit of state registration is that it notifies anyone who checks the state's list that the mark is owned by the registrant. Registration may also be helpful in establishing prior use of the mark if there is a legal conflict in another state. Furthermore, state registration is generally less expensive and it provides the owner standing in state court if any legal disputes arise.
Regardless of whether a federal trademark owner has obtained registration in a state or was the first person to use the mark in a state, a federal trademark generally wins if there is a conflict between the federal trademark and the state trademark. However, priority in registration is always a key factor in determining the outcome when there is a conflict between federal and state trademarks. Typically, if the good/service registered with the state was in use prior to when the good/service was in use and registered with the USPTO, the state trademark owner will be provided protection over a limited region; usually restricted to the state where the mark is registered.
Although a federal trademark provides a larger area of protection, a state trademark can be equally as effective depending on the type of business. If your business is conducting business in only one state a state trademark is sufficient to protect your business within that jurisdiction. Further, the state trademark will generally provide protection against federal trademarks so long as the federal trademark owner cannot show proof of first usage.
Depending on the name or logo you are looking to register, it is strongly recommended that you search both the state and federal level. If, for example, you are trying to register your mark at the state level, a similar federal trademark that is registered first in time may have superior rights to use the mark in your state.
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