What is a trademark?We recognize the goods we buy and the services we use by the particular logo or words the vendor adopts to help us distinguish their product from any other of a similar kind. The use of that logo or set of words automatically becomes a trademark. There are two different levels of trademark registration in the U.S. Knowing how they work will aid in choosing the correct level of registration. However, there is no legal requirement to file. You can find best patent law firms here www.dbllawyers.com.
Common law trademark rights
The selling or use of a product automatically creates trademark rights. These are known as “common law trademark rights,” and only apply within a particular state. You can sell chocolate known as “Chocco” in California, and nobody else can use that name or your logo there. However, a person in Florida is free to make the same kind of chocolate and sell it under the “Chocco” trademark.
There is no need to register, although you may wish to do so if the Secretary of State maintains a list of trademarks for the area. The use of your chosen brand name makes your rights within the state automatic.
If a product only has a small, state-wide distribution, then this level of protection may well be adequate.
If you plan to sell in several states it is preferable to file for Federal registration. Trademarks registered with the U.S Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are afforded a higher level of protection.
In this case, the trademark is held on a central register. This extends the protection of the trademark in the following ways. These are not available under common law protection.
Ownership is secured. The trademark cannot be copied by someone in a different state.
-Federal Courts will allow you to prosecute if there is a case of trademark infringement. Federal courts do not accept claims from those whose trademark only falls under common law.
– You can sue for damages if someone uses your trademark.
-After five years of registration, the trademark cannot be contested.
-You are protected from “copy cat” imports through customs.
-You can register the trademark whether you are currently using it or not. This means you can protect a trademark or idea for future use.
The choice lies with the vendor
The type of registration chosen is not determined by law, but by the choice of the vendor as the vendor must decide which level of protection to choose. The danger is that without a legal requirement to register under Federal law, a product may become popular and be copied by unscrupulous sellers in another state. It is often quite hard to determine who was using the trademark first. A central register and a requirement for all those using a trademark to register under Federal law would give better protection to all.