It is your choice whether to file for federal trademark registration. The benefits include:
- Trademark is listed in our database of registered and pending trademarks. This provides public notice to anyone searching for similar trademarks. They will see your trademark, the goods and services on your registration, the date you applied for trademark registration, and the date your trademark registered.
- Legal presumption that you own the trademark and have the right to use it. So, in federal court, your registration certificate proves ownership, eliminating the need for copious amounts of evidence.
- Can use your registration as a basis for filing for trademark protection in foreign countries.
- Right to bring a lawsuit concerning the trademark in federal court.
- May use the federal trademark registration symbol, ®, with your trademark to show that you are registered with us. This may help deter others from using your trademark or one too similar to yours.
- Record your registration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). They can stop the importation of goods with an infringing trademark.
Federal, state, and international registration
How you choose to protect your trademark is up to you. You are not required to register your trademark, but where or whether you decide to register your trademark can determine the scope of your rights. Specifically, you can rely on common law rights or file for state, federal, or international trademark registration.
Common law rights
Results in the USPTO’s search database are limited to federal trademark applications and registrations and do not include the marks of other parties who may have trademark rights but no federal registration.
These rights, known as “common law” rights, are based solely on use of the trademark in commerce within a particular geographic area. This limits your rights, as you can only enforce your trademark rights for the specific area where your trademark is used.
These rights may be stronger than those based on a registration, if the other party’s common law use is earlier than the use supporting your registration. Therefore, we encourage you to search the Internet, state trademark databases, and business name databases for references to similar trademarks that are related to your goods or services.
You may instead choose to hire a licensed attorney to help with your trademark application. For more information, go to our Hiring a U.S.-licensed attorney page.
State trademark registration
Registering your trademark with your U.S. state creates rights in that state only. Your trademark is not protected if you expand your business across state lines into another state where your trademark is not registered. If you decide to expand your business across state lines, you’ll need to decide if you want to register your trademark in that state or apply for federal registration. Also, not all states have trademark registration databases, which means that third parties will not be aware of your rights in that trademark. It’s your responsibility to prevent others from using your trademark. See more information about state registration requirements.
Federal trademark registration
Registering your trademark with the USPTO creates rights throughout the entire United States and its territories, and includes your registration in our publicly accessible database of registered trademarks. You can use the ® symbol and you can generally rely on those rights to protect your trademark as you expand your business across state lines. However, the USPTO is not an enforcement agency, so you will be responsible for pursuing any infringing users.
International trademark registration
While there is no such thing as a “worldwide trademark” or a “worldwide trademark registration,” you can register your trademark in multiple countries through the Madrid Protocol. This international treaty allows you to file a single application that can then be applied to any of the over 100 member countries, as long as you meet the legal requirements for registration in those countries.
Although the Madrid Protocol creates something called an “international registration,” the registration doesn’t create worldwide rights. The treaty simplifies applying for a trademark registration in different countries, but it doesn’t automatically guarantee your trademark will be registered in each country. Each country’s trademark office will review your application and decide whether your trademark will be registered in that country.
How long does a federal registration last?
Your trademark registration can last forever, so long as you continue to use your trademark in commerce and provide us with evidence that you’re still using it. Specifically, you need to file maintenance documents with fees at prescribed, periodic intervals. For example, you must file a maintenance document after your trademark has been registered for five years.
If you don’t maintain your trademark registration at these intervals, you’ll lose your federal registration and will need to start the application process over. Learn more about maintaining your federal trademark registration.