Does My Business Need a Registered Trademark?
Entrepreneurs and small business owners often ask if their business needs a registered trademark. The answer is a little complicated. Trademarks offer huge advantages to business owners. Therefore, whenever a business satisfies trademark registration requirements, it should absolutely consider registering its trademark.
In fact, the sooner the business starts the registration process, the better chances it’ll have.
What’s a Requirement For Registering a Trademark?
When we refer to trademark registration, we’re referring to federal trademark registration with the United States Patents and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). Understand that there are also state trademarks, and a local business can select to register their trademark with their state. However, registration with USPTO is what gives the business owner an exclusive right to use that name or design, and the ability to enforce it federally.
Not all trademarks are eligible for USPTO registration.
First, your trademark cannot be a generic name. This means it can’t be a word or phrase that relates to your business that is used on a regular basis by other people and businesses.
Second, your trademark should also not be a descriptive name. Even though registration is sometimes possible with descriptive names, it’s better to not choose a trademark that is descriptive. For more information on the spectrum of distinctiveness for trademarks, refer to this blog post.
Third, and most importantly, you should use or intend to use your trademark in commerce. For USPTO purposes, commerce refers to interstate commerce. This means commerce between your state and at least one other state, or country.
Of course, it goes without saying that in order for your business to register its trademark, you should first retain a trademark attorney to conduct a trademark search to make sure there is not already a pending or registered mark that is same as yours or similar to yours.
How Important is a Registered Trademark for a Small Business?
A registered trademark brings some huge advantages for small businesses and businesses in general. When you have a federally registered trademark, you have an exclusive right to use that trademark in your business. No one else can use that name in a similar field of business.
A registered trademark is very important because only by registering your trademark do you own your brand. You can create various products or services under your brand name and create even greater brand awareness.
A registered trademark will give you the opportunity to fight copy-cat brands out there who decide to capitalize on the goodwill you created as a brand. You can send a cease and desist letter and even demand payment for damages. Furthermore, you can sue the infringers in federal court.
A registered trademark will also give small businesses and other businesses, in general, the opportunity to monetize their brands by licensing out their trademarks.
What Happens If You Don’t Register a Trademark?
If you’re eligible for trademark registration, then you should register is with USPTO as soon as possible.
What happens, however, if you decide not to register your trademark?
The main disadvantage would be that as a business you won’t have the federal protection for your brand. Another business could come along and register the same or similar name with the USPTO. Then you would be limited in your own trademark use. This means you cannot expand your services or products, you cannot start offering those services or products in new areas or locations.
Most importantly, if you don’t register your trademark, you don’t truly own your brand name or other aspects associated with your brand. You will miss out on many monetization options that a registered trademark could make available for you.