Trademarks identify and distinguish your products or services from other similar products and services in the marketplace. Trademarks are essential when creating a brand. According to Wikipedia, trademarks were first used in the Roman Empire where the blacksmiths would stamp the swords they made to show the source of origin. Other early uses included Lowenbrau beer (since 1383) and Stella Artois (since 1366). Now, trademarks are used as a marketing tool to build a brand and to allow consumers to rely on and expect certain quality and experience associated with that particular brand.
Trademark is created the moment you start using it. You do not have to register it to have it. However, this so called “common law” trademark protects your goods or services only in the territory of use (not nationally). Also remember, - trademark law is all about who was the first to use that particular mark.
In short, federal registration (registration with the US Patent and Trademark Office) gives you the following advantages:
1. Exclusive nationwide ownership of the mark.
2. Official notice to other potential users that the mark is not available (can put an ® after it).
3. Right to sue in federal courts (where it is more likely to win an infringement lawsuit and get larger damages, including attorney fees).
4. Presumption that the trademark owner is the rightful owner of the mark (although this presumption can be rebutted with proof of prior use by another party).
5. An option for the owner to file an “intent to use” application (instead of traditional actual use). This still gives the owner priority of use provided the owner filed the application before another party used the mark and the owner later puts the mark to actual use.
I believe that, taken together, these benefits outweigh the costs ($275 to $325 if filing electronically and $375 if filing a paper application, plus attorney fees). I know, the costs may seem high, but are they really that high if you compare them to the costs of spending a year developing your brand just to find out later that the name was not available?