Are trademarks worth the time and money?
I know they are not too expensive, but is getting an official Trademark really worth it or do you have sufficient rights by simply using a name or mark?
When registering a trademark, a large portion of the fee goes towards the agent’s hourly pay. Your fees also pay for the agent’s rent, advertising, staff and office equipment.
In today’s market, you have to be very competitive, and our rates help us stand out. We noticed that most companies charge $800-1200 for trademark filing and way over $2000 for each all-inclusive trademark registration and decided to offer our services at a quarter of industry prices.
Trademarks are defintely worth the money - you just have to find the right company. Being that we are a small company, we’ve taken every opportunity to cut our costs in order to pass savings to you. We’ve taken the necessary steps to provide you with the best prices.
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It is worth it for a number of reasons, especially if your enterprise has a reach in different parts of the country, e.g. by offering goods and services through a website. This is because you get certain additional rights when your trademark is registered as opposed to when it is not registered. The benefits in a given context are best left for a discussion, so feel free to be in touch if you want to have a conversation.
Outside of "common law" jurisdictions (such as the US and UK, for example), most countries ONLY provide trade mark rights through registration rather than use, and so it is essential to register in those jurisdictions if you are going to be trading there. Likewise, if you are going to be sourcing goods from foreign jurisdictions for sale into the US, I would strongly advise that you register your trade marks in those foreign countries, because if you do not, you may well find that someone else (e.g., your manufacturer) will, and they can then "hold you to ransom" if you try to change your source. This is particularly true in China, where the manufacturer can notify customs and have any goods being shipped out of China bearing the mark seized and, if necessary destroyed.
For more information, see http://www.murgitroyd.com/news-resources/webinar-recordings "Protecting Your Brands - The Dos and Don'ts of Emerging Markets"
In "common law" countries, there are advantages to registration of marks as well as use in that a registration will give you nationwide coverage, whereas rights acquired through use tend to be local. It is also much easier to prove the existence of registered rights, and thus they are easier to enforce. Finally, in most jurisdictions outside of the US and Canada, because there is no requirement to prove use in order to secure registration, it is possible to obtain much broader protection in terms of the number of goods or services covered.
Hope this helps!
You've received a lot of great answers and I won't repeat them. I'll just add a few comments on these answers based upon my 18 years of practice as a trademark attorney.
It's true that in the U.S., you acquire rights in your mark merely through use which can be enforceable against subsequent similar users of a similar mark in your immediate, actual market without needing to federally register the mark. However federal registration makes it easier to enforce those rights and expands your rights nationwide. Of course, that assumes that your business needs nationwide protection (i.e. not a more local business like real estate, a single restaurant, etc.) and also that your business will be capable of financing that enforcement. That enforcement is also a greater issue if you plan to license your mark (because of the risk that the licensee will challenge your mark ownership) as well as if you are selling goods and you want to stop infringing goods at U.S. borders because a U.S. registration can enable U.S. Customs to seize infringing goods. A trademark registration also enables you to acquire domain name rights in that mark, often with priority or earlier than others and possibly even take away someone else's ownership of that domain name, if the other entities interested in the domain name are subsequent to your adoption of the mark and they have no "legitimate interest" in using that mark as a domain name.
Assuming that for at least the first few years of your business you do not expect to need to enforce your mark or will not have a budget to do so, you may still consider registering your mark "defensively" to maintain a record in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that you own your mark for X goods/services which could deter others in your line of business from attempting to adopt your mark. As someone mentioned, other businesses seem to respect registered marks more than unregistered possibly because of their misguided belief that a registration is necessary to actually confer trademark rights in the U.S. Also, a federal registration can be viewed as a business asset and valued as such.
In many other countries, if you are doing business outside the U.S., a registration IS NECESSARY in order to acquire rights in the mark and you may even be considered infringing another's mark if you use your mark in a country without a registration while someone else subsequently registers that mark.
But, as Mr. Mocker stated very well, whether or not you decide to register a mark, it is most important, and I would say critical, that you at least have the mark searched by a competent trademark attorney to ensure that it is available for use. Because an existing similar business using that mark or a sufficiently similar mark could at any point in time demand that you stop using your mark and that business also would not need to have registered their mark (they just need to be USING the mark in the same market as you). Presumably, you will not want to be forced to change your mark or business name once you have selected it and invested in it to whatever extent that you are investing in the marketing of your business.
Lastly, I would encourage you to review the material that Ms. Wolforth linked on the USPTO website to get a better understanding of trademarks.
If you really have a brand that you think is really, really, going to be displayed nationwide, get it. If you're just starting a business and have not really developed a logo and just have the idea for it, I would base the answer on whether you can afford it. Be advised that you must show samples of the mark in commerce, at some point at the time or six months after the time you apply. So, you must be prepared, one way or the other if you decide to do it. So expect to send money.
It depends on the trademark. Some trademarks are worthless and some are worth billions
No, set up licensing structure instead. I would focus on domain name rights vs TM and or utility patents.
In Europe, if you have a registered trade mark, you can use customs authorities in each member state to look out for and seize incoming infringements and counterfeit goods. You can't do that with unregistered marks. That alone makes registration worthwhile.
Also, in the UK, it can take 5 years to get enough goodwill to defend an unregistered mark whereas if you file a trade mark application, you have 5 years before you have to use it.
If you have the resources and a sufficiently distinctive brand, registration's a no-brainer.
There are several key benefits obtained only through registration. These include:
i) Your filing date becomes a nationwide constructive date of first use and priority over third parties;
ii) Only a registered mark can become incontestable after five years. Incontestable marks cannot be challenged on certain grounds enumerated in the Lanham Act, including on grounds that the mark is merely descriptive. This can be a huge advantage in a trademark dispute over such a mark;
iii) Registration creates an automatic right to sue in federal court and, in certain cases, to recover treble damages and attorneys’ fees (In counterfeiting cases statutory damages are also available);
iv) Registration creates a legal presumption of ownership and validity, shifting the burden of proof on both issues to the defendant in litigation;
v) The application provides a basis for enjoying the benefits of the Paris Convention and Madrid Protocol when seeking foreign protection;
vi) The registration can be recorded with U.S. Customs in order to prevent the importation of infringing products;
vii) Registration includes the right to use the ® symbol;
viii) The presence of the mark on the federal trademark register serves to deter third parties from adopting confusingly similar marks; and
ix) Registration is a key basis for obtaining relief against domain name squatters both under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act and the ICANN Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy.
Fights over common law rights can be brutal and expensive as it is often necessary to prove use and/or reputation on a location by location basis. This can lead to situations where each party is accorded rights in a limited area which inteferes with business expansion.
In addition to Todd Sullivan's very thorough and good answer, the USPTO website has great information to demystify the subject here: http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/basics/index.jsp
If you decide to proceed, please understand that a trademark filing is NOT a DIY project! There are traps for the unwary and the fee is nonrefundable so it's worth hiring a professional.