Registered vs. Unregistered Trademark—Which One Should You Pick?
Most small businesses start by selling their products or services in their neighborhoods. As the business grows, so does its reach. It starts attracting customers from larger areas—state, country, and even international consumers.
Trademarks work even when you do not register them.
In this article, we will explain the differences between a registered vs. unregistered trademark and show you how to decide which one to get.
We will also show you how you can use DoNotPay to make sure your trademark application form is error-free without spending over the odds for an attorney.
Imagine having a successful business idea that brings in a multitude of customers and high profit. Your customers will start to recognize your brand and develop emotional associations with your products or services.
Competitors can look at what you are doing and decide they can do the same or similar—they can copy your product (or some elements of it) and confuse customers into thinking they come from the same brand.
What prevents them from doing that are trademarks. A trademark provides you with legal grounds to protect yourself from any other party that commits infringement.
When you register a trademark, you will be able to:
- Sue any company that copies or imitates your product or brand
- Prove your ownership of the product in court
- Ban infringing goods from going in and out of the United States
- Receive legal protection on a state, federal, or international level
You can put a trademark on your entire brand and product, but you can also choose to trademark different elements of the two, such as:
- Name (band name, artist name, domain name, podcast name, username, etc.)
- Book series title
The United States law does not require you to register your trademark, but choosing not to do so will limit your options to protect your product. Still, you can consider anything you produce and sell as a trademark—it will be protected by common law.
Take a look at the following table to see some of the major differences between a registered and unregistered trademark:
|Differences||Registered Trademarks||Unregistered Trademarks|
|Protection level||State, federal, and international protection||Protection for a limited geographic area of the market you are in|
|Available courts||Automatic access to federal courts||You cannot go to a federal court unless your claim is over $75,000 against an out-of-state company|
|Ownership||Prima facie proof of ownership||You have to prove ownership and validity of the mark|
|Registration requirements||An extensive registration process with several forms and documents||No registration process|
|Cost||A fee of $250–$350 per registration class||Free|
|Duration||Ten years, renewable||Forever|
|Symbol in use||®||™|
|Priority date||The date you submit the application||You have to prove your priority date|
Registered trademarks give more protection to your company and you as the owner. It will be easier to seek damage compensation and defend yourself from someone else’s claim.
While you do have some level of protection with an unregistered trademark, your options are limited. For instance, if someone uses your name in your hometown, you can sue them, but you have no power if they do that in a different city or state.
So why go with an unregistered one? Filing a trademark request is a complicated task that requires a lot of time, effort, and money on your part. Application forms come with high fees, and it is likely you will not be able to do it accurately without an attorney, which only adds to the expenses.
You should stick with an unregistered trademark if you have no plans of expanding your business beyond the area you already operate in. If you offer localized service or you do not see your product getting a huge following, there is no reason to go through the registration process.
In this case, you will still have enough legal protection to stop competitors in your immediate area. You will also be able to protect yourself from any claims about infringement on your part.
The first step to registering a trademark is researching whether something similar already exists. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is in charge of trademarks, and you will need to search its database to see if your mark is unique enough to be approved.
The USPTO looks for anything similar, so you will have to be thorough in your search.
This is why many companies decide to hire an attorney. If you do not wish to pay extortionate fees for this service, you can subscribe to DoNotPay and use our app to do a clearance search and complete the application form.
You can submit an application via the USPTO Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS). The application form will ask you to submit:
- Details about yourself
- Details about your company
- Trademark type
- Trademark class
- Application fee
- Declaration of accuracy
- Statement of use and specimen or intent to use
Obtaining a trademark is a daunting task, and if you are not experienced, you will likely leave out important pieces of information or do an inaccurate clearance search. This will result in a denied application, and you will have to do everything again, including paying the application fees.
DoNotPay will do the search on your behalf and will make sure you do not skip any detail. Our app will go through the USPTO database and ask you questions about all the necessary information.
You only need to:
- Use your web browser to sign up for DoNotPay
- Navigate to the Trademark Registration feature
- Answer a few questions from our chatbot
- Pay the USPTO fees
Once you complete these steps, our app will generate the application form. We will send it to you via email so that you can review and e-sign the form before submitting it to the USPTO.
Let DoNotPay Help You With Boring Administrative Tasks While You Focus on Becoming a Business Mogul!
DoNotPay can assist you in dealing with a number of business-related tasks. We have developed a plethora of simple-to-use products that make running a business much easier and less stressful.
Do you need help registering your business name as a trademark? We have got you covered! Not sure how to write a convincing letter to request a small business loan? DoNotPay helps with that, too!
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That is not all DoNotPay has to offer. Our awesome tools will make tedious administrative tasks easier to manage so you can concentrate on your business instead of wasting time waiting in lines and filling out forms. Rely on DoNotPay to:
- Take care of DMCA agent registration and Privacy Shield program self-certification
- Make sure no one else is using your trademark
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