I know that when you are starting out, every penny matters! So when clients ask, “Why is getting a trademark registration important, don’t I get that for free somehow?” here is what I say:
In the US, you obtain what is called “common law” rights when you start to use your brand name in connection with your product or service in commerce. Commerce means the “open market,” selling your goods or services, making them available to the public, etc.!
Here’s how federal registration blows common law rights out of the water: with common law, your rights are very limited- meaning, you only get rights in your geographic location! So if you only sell items in New York and California, then those are the only states you can (attempt) to claim common law rights in! A competitor can start selling the same product or service in Florida under your brand name and unless you have a federal registration to stop them, it’s going to be a bumpy little battle.
With federal registration, you aren’t limited to your geographic location because you obtain nationwide trademark rights! This means that if you have a federal registration, then you have pretty awesome exclusivity to your brand name (and that is essential to building out your business). If you have time, check out these other great reasons why the United States Patent and Trademark Office thinks you should register here!
Bottom Line: It may seem like a non-issue, but having a federal trademark registration for your brand name provides you with some extra punch when those competitors try to ride your wave of success!