Acquiring Trademark Rights
Federal registration is not necessarily required to establish rights in a trademark.
Rights can arise from actual use of a mark. Generally, the first to either use a mark in commerce or
file an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has the ultimate right to use
However, once registered, the trademark owner is provided additional rights.
For example, using a trademark without registering it will provide rights only within its established trading area. Once registered, the owner would have exclusive rights on a nationwide basis.
Trademark Protection through Use
Trademark rights can be established based on actual use of the mark in commerce. This protection arises automatically, from actual and legitimate use of a mark for commercial purposes.
Trademark rights that arise through actual use are referred to as “common law” trademark rights. Disputes can arise if more than one person or business claims common law rights to a mark, so
taking additional steps to protect your rights to a trademark through registration can be more
effective than relying only on common law rights.
Trademark Protection through Registration
While trademark protection arises automatically from legitimate use of the mark, registering a trademark offers additional protections for the mark’s owner. Ownership of a federal trademark registration provides several advantages, including:
- Public notice of your claim of ownership of the trademark.
- The exclusive right to use the trademark nationwide in connection with the goods or services
listed in the registration.
- You can sue in federal court to enforce your trademark rights.
- Your U.S. registration can be used as a basis to obtain registration in foreign countries.
- You can file with U.S. Customs Service to prevent importation of infringing foreign goods.
- You have the right to use the federal registration symbol ® .
- Your trademark registration listed in the USPTO database.
Next > Common Law Rights