Let’s Get Legal With It: Trademarking Your Business

Should You Trademark Your Business?

Have you got a business name, tag line, and/or logo worth protecting?

You may want to seriously consider a federal trademark registration it to prevent someone else from using it.

Trademark rights are established in two ways: (1) Federal registration of the mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO); (2) Common law usage of the mark.

trademark do it yourself?Common Law Trademark Rights

Common law trademark rights arise out of actual use of a mark. AND, while not legally required, it’s best to attach the trademark symbol (™) to any non-generic name, phrase, or design/logo. No formal registration is required. However, common law rights are limited to the geographic area in which the mark is used. This means if you have staked a claim to “Big Ben’s Burger Bar,” a local restaurant in Portland, Maine, there’s nothing stopping someone else from staking a claim to the same name for their local restaurant in Portland, Oregon. However, neither owner could open a competing restaurant in the other’s territory. Common law trademark rights are enforced by the state in which the trademark claim is made.

You do NOT need a lawyer to establish your common law trademark rights. But you should use the TM symbol if you’re certain you have a legal right to claim the mark.

Federal Trademark Rights

register my trademarkFederal trademark rights are issued by the USPTO and require formal registration of a mark. A federally registered trademark gives the owner nation-wide protection and is therefore more desirable that a common law mark. A federally registered mark bears the symbol of a circle with the letter “R” inside. (Foreign registration of a mark is also possible.)

Unlike patent registration, it is possible to file for federal trademark protection without an attorney, but be aware that it is a very complex process and requires a thorough understanding of the procedures and formatting requirements that you must adhere to—if your application is incomplete or filed improperly, you’ll face delays and possibly refusal of your application. This is one case where I would seriously consider hiring a lawyer, or at least talking to one before diving in head first

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