What is the difference between a trademark and a registered trademark?

Trademarks and registered trademarks are both important legal tools for protecting intellectual property, but there are some key differences between the two.

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design that is used to distinguish one brand or product from another. The purpose of a trademark is to prevent confusion among consumers and to help establish brand recognition and reputation. A trademark can be established through common law usage or by registration with a government agency, such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

A registered trademark is a trademark that has been officially registered with a government agency, such as the USPTO. Registering a trademark provides additional legal protection and benefits that are not available to unregistered trademarks. These benefits include:

  1. Legal presumption of ownership: When a trademark is registered, it is presumed to be owned by the registered owner. This presumption can be important in legal disputes over ownership or infringement.

  2. Nationwide protection: A registered trademark provides protection across the entire country, even if the mark is not being used in all parts of the country. This can be important for businesses that operate nationally or internationally.

  3. Ability to sue for infringement: A registered trademark owner can bring a lawsuit for infringement in federal court, and may be eligible for damages, injunctions, and other remedies.

  4. Use of the ® symbol: A registered trademark owner can use the ® symbol to indicate that the mark is registered, which can help deter others from using the mark or a confusingly similar mark.

In contrast, an unregistered trademark is still protected under common law, but only within a limited geographic area and only for the specific goods or services associated with the mark. Unregistered trademarks also have fewer legal protections and may be more difficult to enforce in court.

While both trademarks and registered trademarks serve to protect intellectual property, registered trademarks provide additional legal protections and benefits that are not available to unregistered trademarks. Registering a trademark can be a valuable investment for businesses looking to establish and protect their brand identity.

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