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I've been doing some preliminary reading on trademark law, and I see that a trademark with the USPTO isn't necessary to defend the uniqueness of your new brand name or log in court.

The USPTO gives a list of reasons why you'd want to register, but with my project in question, I don't see many of them as applicable to me. I've searched their database and it comes out clean, and apart from a squatter on the .com I have pretty much unlimited domain choices, so I'm pretty confident that we won't be stepping on someone's toes. We're in a niche industry so the probability of knockoffs will be low for some time.

Which leads me to the question. Is trademarking always done by everyone or is it only done by the bigger fishes? Is common law enough to protect a trademark? If you/your client wants to trademark, what is the most common reason cited? Is it more about creating better legal protection for you, making sure you're not infringing on someone else, or something else completely?

This might have been a better fit for Startups, but I see that doesn't exist anymore. I'm a designer looking into trademarks, so I'm hoping others have as well and have some insight!

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Well, I don't have enough experience for complete answer, but want to share one story briefly. One big and solid company in CIS exported household chemistry to near countries, but never cared about trademarks. Clever guys in one of the countries registered one of the product names as own trademark and denied to sell these products without license ($200k). Big company rejected offer and decided to change the name and was knocked out from market due low brand awareness. And clever guys now doing and selling the same products under already promoted brand name. –  Vnovak May 27 at 18:24
    
Registering a trademark is fairly cheap (at least as compared to overall costs of product development), so as a aid to future-proofing, why not? The sooner the better -- as @Vnovak's tale bears out. –  Andrew Leach May 27 at 18:53

2 Answers 2

Registering can help protect you from someone stealing your brand and offers greater level of protection for someone who is. In order to use the federal registered ® symbol on a logo you would need to have it registered. you can use the without registration.

Legalzoom states some of the benefits here link to article

Many people assume they can protect their trademark simply by using the mark in commerce. It is true that you are not required to register a trademark to achieve some level of protection and that one establishes common law rights simply by using a mark in commerce.

However, having a federally registered trademark on the USPTO's principal register provides several advantages:

Serves as constructive notice to the public of the registrant's ownership of the trademark 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 Allows the registrant to bring an action concerning the trademark in federal court U.S registration can be used as a basis to obtain registration in foreign countries Can be filed with U.S. Customs to prevent the importation of infringing foreign goods Federal registration also allows you to use the ® (the "Circle-R") symbol. Any time you claim rights in a trademark, you may use the TM (trademark) or SM (service mark) symbol to alert the public to your claim, regardless of whether you have filed an application with the USPTO. However, you can only use the federal registration symbol ® after the USPTO has actually registered the trademark, not without an application or while an application is pending. Following registration, you can only use the ® symbol on or in connection with the goods and/or services listed in the federal trademark registration.

You should really speak to a lawyer if you are having concerns about the benefits.

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Evan lists the pertinent benefits of using a registered trademark.

Note, however, that you don't need to do anything special to use your name/logo as a trademark other than use it as a mark in the first place.

The 'TM' symbol is merely you stating it's a trademark. It's not necessary, but often done to make it clear that you are declaring it as such.

Filing to have it a registered trademark then lets you use the registered symbol and affords you some additional protection--such as the ability to go after your domain squatter. :)

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