It may surprise you to learn that your trademark receives some legal protection, even if it’s not officially registered with the USPTO.  Such protection for unregistered marks is based on common law and the federal Lanham Act. Read on if you’re weighing the pros and cons of registering your trademark, however; since registration does provide additional legal protections for trademark owners.

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What You Receive Without Registration

While the extent of protection is typically limited to the region where the trademark is used, an unregistered trademark (communicated by the symbol TM in superscript, though this is not required) is still protected against infringement and dilution under common law. As such, you can demand that parties using your trademark without a license cease to do so and even pursue legal steps. That said, without registering your trademark, your options are more limited. You will also have to prove that it’s a valid trademark, and your options for limiting trademark infringement aren’t as extensive. Another limitation is that you will usually have to rely on local or state courts, though it is possible to litigate in federal courts if the infringer resides in a different state and the amount in the case exceeds $75,000, or if the case depends on an interpretation of federal law (most importantly the Lanham Act).

Why You Should Consider Registering

If you register your trademark with the USPTO, your array of options for dealing with trademark infringement will increase. Federal registration also:

  • Makes it easier to bring the matter to federal courts
  • Bestows trademark rights across the United States presuming it is a valid mark, preventing infringers from claiming unawareness of the trademark
  • Enhances remedies for infringement, including triple damages and criminal penalties in cases of counterfeiting

Perhaps the most attractive benefit of registering a trademark is that it can be eligible for incontestability. After five years of unopposed registration, the trademark can become incontestable. For example, it cannot be attacked on the grounds of being merely descriptive—and therefore, ineligible for registration. As such, moving to register trademark designs and other elements is generally a good business decision.

If you have questions about getting your trademark registered, it’s always a good idea to ask someone who understands the process and can provide advice based on your situation. Ask a lawyer for the trademark help you need.

Get started Visit Our Intellectual Property Center Get trademark documents and ask your IP questions.

Get started Visit Our Intellectual Property Center Get trademark documents and ask your IP questions.