Q.Am I required to register my trademark?
A.While you are not required to register your trademark, both state and federal registrations have several advantages. A state registration puts others on notice that your Mark is being used within the state(s) of registration and avails the owner of state law trademark protection. A federal registration, on the other hand carries the following benefits:
- actual or constructive notice to the public of the registrant's claim of ownership of the mark, which may permit the trademark owner to recover damages and loss profits for infringement;
- a legal presumption that the mark is valid and owned by the registrant of ownership nationwide;
- the exclusive right to use the mark on, or in connection with, the goods and/or services stated on the registration certificate;
- the ability to use the registration as a basis for obtaining priority registration in foreign countries; and
- the right to file the traemark registration with the U.S. Customs Office to prevent the importation of infringing foreign "grey market" goods.
On a practical level, the main benefit to registering your trademark is that failure to do so can make the initiation of a trademark infringement lawsuit economically unfeasible because damages will be limited to actual loss, which is generally either nominal or hard to prove. If the mark is registered with the Patent and Trademark Office, however, the trademark owner will be able to willful infringement since the subsequent user of the mark had either actual notice or constructive notice that the mark was in use. A claim for willful infringement in turn enables the trademark owner to seek not only damages, but also attorney's fees and costs.