What is a Trademark?
At one point or another, we’ve all seen a product or business name with a small, encircled R floating next to it. You’ve probably wondered what this R symbol really means, and how exactly it got there in the first place. Most people will tell you that it means something to the effect of “registered,” but that’s only a small part of the significance behind the circled R.
It’s correct that this symbol does imply the term registered, but registered with whom, and how?
A “registered trademark”, or ®, refers to a name, slogan or logo that has been officially registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Registering a trademark is beneficial to a business because it publicly states that your trademark is registered with the USPTO and therefore, you have exclusive rights to that name within your industry. This means that if your business had a registered trademark, and you found another business of a similar nature utilizing your name or logo, you would *likely have the legal right to use your name!
Each time an individual applies for a trademark, the USPTO performs a cross reference check of their name and/or design for similarities among Federally registered or pending trademarks ONLY. The USPTO search is lacking in State trademark AND US National Common-Law databases. Because the USPTO protects names in this fashion, you do not run the risk of another business utilizing and possibly soiling the reputation of the company that you worked hard to build!
Once you have applied for your trademark, the USPTO will consider it a pending mark for up to 18 months. This is among the many reasons why it is important to apply for your trademark sooner versus later. The sooner you apply, the sooner it is that you will be doing business under a registered, protected name!
* This is dependent on if the name is truly available at the time of filing. In other words, was there a prior existing Federal or State trademark? Was there prior existing Common-Law usage of the name?