Benefits of a Registered Trademark
The ® Symbol
The most obvious advantage of trademark registration begins with the right to use the ® symbol. This symbol may be used once a trademark is registered with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) and is considered a “Federally Registered Trademark.” This not only gives your products or services more marketing cachet, it puts competitors on notice that you are serious about protecting your intellectual property rights.
On the other hand, any distinctive name, symbol or word can be designated as a protected mark by using the ™ symbol. This notifies the public that an individual or company claims that name/symbol/word as a brand and sees it as protectable.
In the event of a dispute with an unregistered trademark, the owner must prove that it was the first to use the name or design. Unregistered trademarks are often weak when it comes to legal protection, however, as the owners often lack the evidence required to establish a common law trademark right that they can use against a trademark infringer. This is because companies experienced enough to keep proper records of trademark use are also smart enough to apply for a trademark registration at the outset.
Notice and Priority
Federal trademark registration grants nationwide “constructive” notice of your ownership, which means, by law, that anyone knows or should know about your mark. . This creates a legal obligation on anyone conducting marketing activities to be aware of any similar registered trademarks because they can be found in a trademark search. This also prevents a party from claiming a subsequent adoption of a similar mark was made in good faith, and consequently the registration of confusingly similar marks. The USPTO has a duty to cite prior registrations against new trademark applications for confusingly similar marks and to refuse registration of these marks. In essence, the government is helping you by preventing brands similar to yours from being legally protected at no additional cost.
Proof of Ownership
Trademark registration also establishes a legal presumption of your ownership of the mark and your exclusive right to use the trademark nationwide on or in connection with the goods and/or services listed in the registration. This means you do not need to prove that the mark is valid in court. If you cannot prove your ownership and exclusive right to the court, your case may be dismissed at the outset, which is just one significant reason for why a common law, unregistered trademark is less useful than a registered trademark. Without a trademark registration it is costly to prove that you are the true owner, that there has been continuous use of the mark, and that the mark is valid.
Federal Claims and Recovery
Trademark registration grants the owner the right to bring a claim in federal court. In some cases, registration permits the owner to obtain triple the amount of actual damages plus attorney fees, providing for a significant monetary recovery. Although these types of maximum damages are rare and require a showing of willful trademark infringement, a federally registered trademark creates the presumption of willful infringement if a similar mark is used by someone else.
In the event of counterfeiting, the owner of the mark may also be entitled to statutory damages, which provides relief to the trademark owner without having to show actual damages.