So you just came up with a snazzy new name for your business and you can’t wait to go to market with it. Before you start ordering the marketing materials, you need to figure out what level of protection your name will need. This article will give you some information on the three levels of trademark rights that are available to you in order to help you make an informed decision on protecting your intellectual property.
When starting your business, one of the things you must decide is how much you plan to grow. The level of trademark protection you may require depends upon the size of your business. There are three choices:
Common Law Level
Typically, the first person to use the mark in commerce is the one who has trademark protection. You don’t necessarily have to register your name with your state or the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
When you begin using the name of your business, you are able to protect it with the ™ symbol. This serves as a notice to others that you are laying your claim to that mark. Keep in mind that this will not necessarily protect the name of your business in other areas of your state or the rest of the country. Typically, common law trademark rights will only apply to a specific geographical location, such as your city or county.
If your business is going to operate throughout your entire state, it may be appropriate to pursue protection of your business name at the state level. This can be done by incorporating your business, forming an LLC, or in some cases, obtaining state level trademark protection with your state.
If you obtain state level trademark rights over the name of your business, you will be able to prevent another business in your state from using your name. This does not prevent someone from starting a business with the same name in a different state.
Federal trademark registration is the highest level of trademark protection. It covers all 50 states and will give you more legal rights to protect the name of your business if you find that someone else is infringing on your trademark rights.
Obtaining federal trademark registration can be a lengthy and complicated process, but once you are granted trademark rights, it will be much easier to prevent infringement. Additionally, if you plan to grow your business globally, obtaining trademark protection in the US is a prerequisite for pursuing trademark rights internationally.
Intellectual property is an extremely important factor in starting and running a business. It is important to take all the steps necessary to ensure that your mark is being protected. While your level protection may depend on how much you plan to grow your business, there may also be other factors to consider. Since intellectual property law can be complicated, it is best to consult with an intellectual property attorney who can ensure that you are making the right decisions for your business.
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