The primary motivation behind seeking a trademark registration is often rooted in protection–but what does that look like in practice? A trademark can safeguard your brand in several different ways:
- Providing the presumption of nationwide validity
- Enables effective policing of online marketplaces
- Deterrence for those with similar branding
1. The Presumption of Nationwide Validity of Your Trademark
Once registered, your trademark is valid and enforceable throughout the United States. Trademark registration also affords the owner the presumption of validity, which is especially useful when dealing with an infringement case. This means that, as the owner of the mark, you carry a legal presumption of validity and ownership, as well as the exclusive rights to use the mark in commerce in connection with the goods and services listed within the trademark registration. Because this presumption is automatically applied to the registration owner, the burden of providing proof to displace it rests with the other party, typically the defendant, in an infringement lawsuit. This provides trademark owners with a massive advantage during infringement litigation. Additionally, certain situations allow registered trademark owners to pursue treble and statutory damages should business be affected by the infringement at hand.
Nationwide validity is increasingly useful as businesses turn to websites and online marketplaces to sell their products. Online shopping is rapidly becoming the norm—and while this means business owners may have a greater consumer audience, it also means that regional boundaries no longer exist as they did before. It has become more imperative than ever for companies to ensure that their products stand apart from their competition in both name and branding, and consequently protecting those distinctions can also ensure that no one else is able to capitalize off of their work.
2. Effective Trademark Enforcement Without Litigation
As the trademark owner, it is your legal duty to police the marketplace for infringement on your trademark. This obligation is fortunately backed by your federal registration—as the rightful owner, you have the authority necessary to stay on the offensive and prevent other parties from using your intellectual property.
In order to understand trademark policy, it is essential to know that the government’s perspective on trademark law is not rooted in protection—rather, its primary concern is preventing consumer confusion. This still plays a significant role in keeping your mark safe and can be a massive advantage for the trademark owner. If your New York boutique receives a poor online review for subpar customer service but the reviewer actually meant to leave the review for a store that opened in California, that indicates customer confusion between the branding of the businesses. As the trademark owner, you would be able to not only intervene legally in the name and brand of the competitor’s store due to confusion in the marketplace, but also fight that false review. The USPTO holds the view that if two marks are too similar, neither owner has control over commercial expression or consumer interpretation—therefore enabling the owner that holds the earliest use and trademark registration the rights to protecting and defending their mark.
Owning a trademark registration also enables a much smoother process when facilitating takedowns on major website retailers such as Amazon, Facebook, or the Apple Store. Should another party make a listing or post that directly infringes on your brand or business, contacting the marketplace and producing the trademark registration often results in a smooth, painless removal of the infringing material. The federal trademark registration leaves no room for doubt regarding who is the proper owner of the mark and subsequently facilitates effective policing.
3. Effective Deterrence Against Infringement of Your Trademark
While it may seem like the majority of infringement holds malicious intent, most individuals and business owners understand the boundaries set by intellectual property and will make a point to avoid conflict. If someone is searching through trademark registrations while deciding upon a name for their product or business and finds a result similar to their idea, the chances are very high that they will move on to another option because of the potential for conflict that exists. Registrations are compelling deterrents for anyone considering a mark in a similar space to yours and can sufficiently prevent litigation before it even occurs.
It is important to note that trademarks similar to your registration are permitted to exist when they subsist in different areas of the marketplace. For example, ‘Delta’ is a well-known mark as both an airline and a sink manufacturer. In order to understand why both of these identical marks were granted registrations, refer back to the government’s primary concern: consumer confusion. It was determined that the goods and services offered under Delta were different enough from one another that a typical consumer would understand that Delta Airlines and Delta kitchen products were not offered by a related entity.
With this in mind, the deterrence of a trademark registration is most effective when applied to related areas of the marketplace. While a registration cannot guarantee that your mark is exclusive to only you in every industry, it will ensure that no one in similar spheres of commerce can operate under a name that is close to yours.
Trademark Registrations Offer Invaluable Protection to Your Brand
While navigating the trademark application process and understand the perspective from which the government views trademark law may seem daunting, obtaining a registration is the most effective form of protection you can possess for your company or product. To fully understand the benefits and details of validity, policing, and deterrence, it is always helpful to enlist the assistance of a professional trademark attorney. Seeking out sound legal advice is the best method to safeguard your business and ensure its security as it grows.