Trademarks F.A.Q

Trademarks Frequently Asked Questions
Inventors IPO > FAQ > Trademarks F.A.Q

We are constantly on the look out for the next big product.

How do I obtain a federal trademark registration?

A registration may be applied for by filing a properly executed application with the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). The application, and any accompanying communications, should be addressed to “Assistant Commissioner for Trademarks, Box New App/Fee, 2900 Crystal Drive, Arlington, VA 22202-3513.”

What is a service mark?

A service mark is any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce, to identify and distinguish the services of one provider from services provided by others, and to indicate the source of the services.

What is a certification mark?

A certification mark is any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce with the owner’s permission by someone other than its owner, to certify regional or other geographic origin, material, mode of manufacture, quality, accuracy, or other characteristics of someone’s goods or services, or that the work or labor on the goods or services was performed by members of a union or other organization.

What is a collective mark?

A collective mark is a trademark or service mark used, or intended to be used, in commerce, by the members of a cooperative, an association, or other collective group or organization, including a mark which indicates membership in a union, an association, or other organization.

Do I need to register my trademark?

No. However, federal registration has several advantages including notice to the public of the registrant’s claim of ownership of the mark, a legal presumption of ownership nationwide, and the exclusive right to use the mark on or in connection with the goods or services set forth in the registration.

What are the benefits of federal trademark registration?

1. Constructive notice nationwide of the trademark owner’s claim.
2. Evidence of ownership of the trademark.
3. Jurisdiction of federal courts may be invoked.
4. Registration can be used as a basis for obtaining registration in foreign countries.
5. Registration may be filed with U.S. Customs Service to prevent importation of infringing foreign goods.

Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to obtain a federal registration?

No. However, an applicant’s citizenship must be set forth in the record. If an applicant is not a citizen of any country, then a statement to that effect is sufficient. If an applicant has dual citizenship, then the applicant must choose which citizenship will be printed in the Official Gazette and on the certificate of registration.

Are there federal regulations governing the use of the designations ``TM`` or ``SM`` with trademarks?

No. Use of the symbols “TM” or “SM” (for trademark and service mark, respectively) may, however, be governed by local, state, or foreign laws and the laws of the pertinent jurisdiction must be consulted. These designations usually indicate that a party claims rights in the mark and are often used before a federal registration is issued.

When is it proper to use the federal registration symbol (the letter R enclosed within a circle -- ® -- with the mark.

The federal registration symbol may be used once the mark is actually registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Even though an application is pending, the registration symbol may not be used before the mark has actually become registered. The federal registration symbol should only be used on goods or services that are the subject of the federal trademark registration. [Note: Several foreign countries use the letter R enclosed within a circle to indicate that a mark is registered in that country. Use of the symbol by the holder of a foreign registration may be proper.

Do I need an attorney to file a trademark application?

No, although it may be desirable to employ an attorney who is familiar with trademark matters. Many applicants find it beneficial to search a mark (to see if there are any registered, pending, or previously used marks) before filing a trademark application. Word marks (marks consisting only of words) may be searched at one of the many Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries (PTDLs) located throughout the United States. You must actually go to the library itself and perform the search yourself. However, the Patent and Trademark Depository Librarians are extremely helpful in getting you started. Searches can also be performed at the Patent and Trademark Office at 2900 Crystal Drive, 2nd Floor, Arlington, Virginia. If you need to locate an attorney specializing in trademark law, local bar associations and the Yellow Pages usually have attorney listings broken down by specialties.

How do I find out whether a mark is already registered?

In order to determine whether any person or company is using a particular trademark, a trademark search can be conducted. Searches can be performed at our offices at 2900 Crystal Drive, 2nd Floor, Arlington, Virginia. Also, word marks may be searched at over 70 Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries located throughout the country.

Is a federal registration valid outside the United States?

No. Certain countries, however, do recognize a United States registration as a basis for registering the mark in those countries. Many countries maintain a register of trademarks. The laws of each country regarding registration must be consulted.