The Lanham Act and Unregistered Trademarks

Many business owners and managers will tell you that you should register a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. By doing so you are protecting your brand and business, in addition to having extensive legal leverage should you ever need it.

However, not all businesses take heed of this advice and they fail to register their trademark. The good news is that both federal and state laws provide legal protection for unregistered trademarks. In this article, we’ll dive into what exactly a trademark is, the Lanham Act, and what protections exist for unregistered trademarks in the United States.

What is a Trademark?

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one seller from those of others. A trademark is essentially a brand name.

Should I Register My Trademark?

Currently there are no federal mandates requiring trademark registration. Nevertheless, it is wise to register your trademark as you’ll be able to reap the benefits of having a registered trademark. Registering a trademark provides the following advantages:

  • Gives notice to the public of you claim of ownership of the mark
  • Provides legal presumption of ownership nationwide
  • Gives exclusive rights to use the mark on/in connection with the goods/services listed in the registration.
trademark law

What is the Lanham Act?

The Lanham Act is a federal trademark statute designed to protect the owner(s) of a federally registered mark against the use of similar marks if such use causes, or could cause, consumer confusion. The Lanham Act prohibits false advertising, trademark dilution, and trademark infringement. Furthermore, the Lanham Act prevents other companies/individuals from using the registered logo, symbol, phrase, word, design.

Can I file a Lawsuit Under the Lanham Act if I do not have a Registered Trademark?

While federal law does not require all trademarks to be registered in order to obtain legal protection, e to file suit under the Lanham Act and to receive the full benefit of a federally registered trademark, the mark should be registered with the USPTO. However, an unregistered trademark, also known as a common law trademark, is enforceable in both state and federal courts. However, a common law trademark suit is limited to the geographical area in which the trademark is used, or widely known by consumers. In order to bring a common law trademark claim, the trademark holder must show that the mark is distinctive among nationwide consumers an it is used in commerce.

What Protections are Available for an Unregistered Trademark?

While registered trademarks provide a higher level of protection, there are certain safeguards in place for unregistered trademarks. In the event that a common-law trademark owner discovers that someone else is using their mark, they may seek an injunction to stop this unauthorized use. A majority of states will not award damages for infringement of an unregistered trademark or recovery of attorneys’ fees. However, trademark laws vary from state to state.

Nardiello Law: Experts in Trademark Law

Nardiello Law is the leading lawyer in trademark, intellectual property, and copyright law in the United States. Based on New York and Texas, Nardiello Law is also known around the world with experience in handling international IP law. If you have a question about your trademark, or if you believe your trademark rights are being infringed upon, contact Nardiello Law today.