Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 8, 2020

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Register a trademark quickly if you have an idea in mind. This may be a critical step in securing your right to use the trademark.

The Internet, with its fast moving pace, has produced obstacles for those who move slowly to register a trademark. One company may come up with a great name and file an “intent to use” application, but a second company, without knowing about the filing, may come up with the same name and begin shipping goods with the name. Who wins? Time and the courts will tell. But your right to use a trademark will be easier to protect if you file quickly.

Registering a Trademark Before Public Use

Register a trademark before you actually publicly use it. A publicly used mark is more likely to be taken and while public use is one factor that is considered for trademark rights, it does not result in an absolute finding like a filed trademark does.

That being said, it is not advisable to register a trademark that you do not intend to use. Trademark filings are expensive and tie up an otherwise useful trademark for three years. If you think your idea has potential for licensing, you should register a trademark and propose the trademark to applicable businesses.

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When to Register a Trademark

A trademark never has to be filed, but the courts have offered guidance as to exactly when a company is advised to register a trademark. For instance, register a trademark if you have placed the mark anywhere that the public will see it, such as on your website, in an advertisement, or on your fliers. You should also register a trademark if you have invested money in the trademark for research or development. This includes actions such as public surveys, hiring graphic artists to create the trademark, ordering packaging or business cards with the trademark, or placing the mark on your business.

If you intend to register a trademark, understand that the process is complex and must be precise for your mark to be accepted. Delaying your filing could result in the loss of your trademark. If you have a trademark that you intend to use within the next three years for any commercial purpose, file immediately to avoid having your mark stolen. For assistance in filing your trademark, contact a trademark attorney or business attorney.