Should You Register Your Trademarks? Benefits Registered Trademark Owners Receive When Protecting Their Brands

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A trademark is a word, symbol, phrase—or almost anything—that represents your company to potential customers. It may be the first thing that a potential customer or client sees when they interact with your business and will likely be the go-to thing that a potential customer or client thinks about when they think of your business. This means that trademark protection is essential for the long-term health of a business.

One way for a business to begin protecting trademarks is to register its trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

This is not as simple as, say, setting up an LLC with the state or filing for a business license. The trademark registration is a long process (on average 9-12 months) with dozens of legal decisions that need to be made in order to ensure the strongest
protection possible. However, once registered, the owner will receive several key benefits over new businesses who might try to create a brand that is confusingly similar to the owner’s trademark, causing confusion and severely damaging the owner’s trademark rights.

But are those benefits worth the time and money to register the trademarks? Let’s look at the benefits a trademark owner gets when it obtains a trademark registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Government-Approved Trademark

A trademark registration gives the owner the presumption that the trademark is distinctive and can be protected under U.S. law. This might seem obvious, but not every word associated with a business can be a protected trademark. Even if a business owner calls its restaurant CAFÉ & BAR, it does not mean that the business owner can register “café & bar” as a trademark. A trademark registration means that a government attorney has reviewed the trademark and, in his or her legal opinion, believes that the word, phrase, logo, etc. is a valid trademark.

No Registrations for Other Confusingly-Similar Trademarks

A registered trademark is also a deterrent for any businesses who are trying to decide on a trademark for their new goods and services. When business owners consider adopting a new trademark, many will search on the USPTO database for similar trademarks. In fact, this is one of the approaches taken by many law firms when researching trademarks for their clients. By owning a registered trademark, a business owner’s trademark will appear in these searches and will be a deterrent to competitors in the future. Even if a competitor does not search on the USPTO database, trademark registrations are public record and appear on many public records websites when searching on Google. Trademark registrations are strong deterrents.

Registering with Borders & Customs

One of the less-used benefits of a trademark registration is the ability to register the trademark with the U.S. Customs Trademark recordation service. Through that registration, U.S. Customs will consider the trademark when it is monitoring and inspecting goods from other countries. If any counterfeits are found, trademark owners will be notified of the potential counterfeits and be given the opportunity to inspect them. This is a powerful tool for trademark owners dealing with foreign counterfeits, especially on platforms like Amazon or eBay.

Amazon Brand Registrations (and Easier Enforcement)

In addition to the “official” benefits of a trademark registration, some companies provide registered trademark owners with special benefits for owning a trademark registration. For example, Amazon sellers can apply for the Amazon Brand Registry, which gives the seller more control over the sale of its brand on Amazon. Amazon will not accept a brand into the program that is not registered with the USPTO.

Trademark registrations are also helpful when trying to enforce the trademark on Amazon and other online platforms. Online marketplaces like Amazon get thousands of take-down notices every day. As a result, they require extensive proof of an infringement before they will take action, including proof that the person submitting the complaint is the owner of that trademark. However, a trademark registration gives the owner the presumption of ownership. This means that, until proven otherwise, Amazon will presume that the owner of the registration is the valid owner of the trademark. This can save a lot of time and money when enforcing rights against others.

Just the Start

The items listed above are just some of the many benefits trademark owners receive when they register their trademarks with the USPTO. Trademark registrations can be strong assets when seeking investors, can be used as collateral for loans, and much more. Every trademark owner should consider registering their trademarks in order to start protecting long-term rights in their trademarks.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eric Perrott is a trademark and copyright attorney with Gerben Law Firm
Eric Perrott is a trademark and copyright attorney with Gerben Law Firm, PLLC. Eric has worked on thousands of trademark matters for clients ranging from start-ups to multi-national corporations and provides advice on trademark registration, enforcement, maintenance and other intellectual property issues. Mr. Perrott is a leader within the American Bar Association's Trademark Division and shares his knowledge of trademark law with organizations and news outlets, including Bloomberg and CNBC.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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