If you’re a California business owner, even of a comparatively small enterprise, chances are that you spent a fair amount of time brainstorming, developing and taking all the steps necessary to ultimately create a defining mark or other symbol that readily identifies your business.
A trademark can be virtually anything that serves to link the goods or services you sell with your business in the minds of consumers. It sets you off from competitors and points to the origin of the products to which it is affixed. In a very real sense, a distinctive and effective trademark operates as a virtual shortcut to public recognition of your company.
Given that, a trademark is obviously proprietary intellectual property of great value that merits the strongest legal protection possible. A rival’s infringing use of your mark (or marks) can easily confuse consumers as to product source and siphon off profits from your business. Additionally, your business can be tarnished by a competitor’s infringing use of a mark that leads consumers to buy a product that is inferior to yours.
Under American law, a trademark gains some legal protection from the first moment it is used in commerce. That is true even without the need to take steps to formally register a mark. Thus, American common law is a “first to use” rather than a “first to register” legal scheme as regards this important intellectual property.
Having said that, though, it is important to note that registering a mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office confers multiple and quite important benefits that supplement the protections afforded through common law.
As noted in an online article focusing on trademark rights and protections, registering a mark creates a legal presumption that an owner has exclusive rights to the mark. That can obviously be important in litigation. Registration also provides notice regarding mark ownership and enforcement rights to other businesses and enables a business owner to work with customs authorities to thwart unlawfully infringing imported goods.
Other benefits are also realized though mark registration. A proven business law attorney with experience helping clients secure and protect intellectual property rights can provide further information.