The Importance of a Federally-Registered Trademark

What is a Trademark?

A trademark is a design, symbol, word, or phrase that identifies a product or services. A trademark helps a business distinguish its brand from others in the market. Famous examples of trademarks are “Nike,” “Apple,” and “American Red Cross.” The famous Nike check is an example of a design that is a trademark, as is the apple with a bite taken out of its side for Apple. A trademark It is the brand name that represents the source of the services or products. A trade name that is federally registered can use the registered trademark symbol, “®”. When a business starts to operate under a trade name, the business is granted common-law trademark rights, meaning the owner of that name has certain limited rights to use that brand name in their immediate geographical area. If the business wants national protection it must register for a trademark through the USPTO.

A trademark is different from a copyright or a patent, although they are all forms of intellectual property. A copyright protects an original work of authorship, such as written materials, photography, art, and music. Whereas patents protect inventions that are often tangible, such as engineered devices. A work of authorship is protected by a copyright as soon as it is created. This means that as soon as the author creates the artwork on a form of media, whether that is physical paper, a blog post, or a performance, the copyright attaches. The difference with a patent is that the inventor must apply to the United States Patent and Trademark Office to obtain a federal trademark or patent.


Why are trademarks important?

Trademarks help customers recognize your brand. A trademark identifies the source of the product or the service. A trademark conveys the goodwill and reputation of a business under one brand. This makes it easy for customers to identify you. For example, the American Red Cross has a high interest in protecting both its name and logo from others who may use its goodwill to promote another brand. The American Red Cross has a reputation for being a trust-worthy provider of humanitarian services around the world. If another company comes along and wants to use a red cross symbol that closely resembles the one trademarked by the American Red Cross, the American Red Cross would want to put a stop to that, and it legally has the right to do so. The American Red Cross does not want others to profit or benefit from its reputation and otherwise provide services that are not actually affiliated with the work of the Red Cross itself.

Additionally, trademarks can be helpful when expanding a business. If you want to open a new location in a different state or license the rights to use your brand name, you would benefit from having the protection of a federally-registered trademark. Without a trademark, brand expansion may be limited because third parties interested in buying the rights to use the name would likely want assurances that the name is protected. This is where a federal trademark is extremely important.

Most importantly, a federally registered trademark helps protect your brand in the event someone else tries to use a similar name. Federal trademarks prohibit others from using a name that is “likely to cause confusion” among customers. Businesses, however, cannot trademark one name across the board on every possible product or service. This means multiple businesses may register a trademark for the same name, but for completely different products or services. For example, “Mac” is a trademark associated with two different major brands; computers and cosmetics. Because computers and cosmetics are two very different products, consumers are not likely to confuse the source of the products. Therefore, both companies are allowed to register a trademark for the name “Mac” as it relates to their specific products. On the other hand, Mac cosmetics could likely prevent a business from selling hair care products under the name “Mac” because hair care products are too similar to cosmetics and its likely to cause confusion.

Must I Register a Trademark to do Business?

The answer here is no. A federally registered trademark is not a necessity to continue doing business (however, having a trademark is a near-necessity when it comes to franchising your business.) However, for those businesses who are interested in expanding outside of their immediate geographical area, or who are doing interstate via internet sales, a federally registered trademark can help protect your brand, logo, and look and feel of your business.

For more information on getting a trademark for your business, please reach out to us at 720-999-5517. We’re happy to help.

Karen Cockrill