What Are Common Law Trademarks?

Businesses need an effective intellectual property strategy, especially with modern technology making everyone’s hard work so easily accessible and, frankly, easily stolen. Small businesses can create significant value by utilizing trademarks and compiling a trademark portfolio that sets them apart from the competition. But, did you know there are actually situations where a mark will be automatically registered for your business’s use and ownership?

A common law trademark accomplishes exactly that – default trademark protection for the creator and owner of a mark who actively uses the mark in commerce in the region they sell their goods or services. Here’s what you need to know about taking advantage of this protection.

Establishing a Common Law Trademark

The surest way to establish a trademark is to register with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), but even before you do this you can secure a common law trademark simply by coming up with a unique mark and using it in commerce. Before you commit to using the mark, however, a thorough trademark search should be conducted to verify that your mark isn’t infringing upon someone else’s work.

For example, if you were to craft a previously-unregistered design to be prominently featured on a series of clothing products and then actively sell products featuring the image you would not need to immediately register the mark for protections in the geographic region that your business operates in. Instead, you receive protections under common law (and can use the ™ insignia before full registration).

Pursuing Infringement of a Common Law Trademark

Just as you can with marks you have registered, you can pursue trademark infringement against anyone who uses your mark without your permission. Some people assume that just because a mark has not been formally registered that it can be used freely on the market.

You will be expected to uphold the integrity of your mark by policing its use by other individuals and businesses. A failure to pursue infringement cases against those who violate your trademark can result in the cancellation of your trademark rights, even under common law. If you do not register your mark, however, you can only force others to stop the use and cannot file a lawsuit for the resulting damages.

Work with an Attorney to Protect Your Innovation

Trademark and intellectual property law are aspects of our overarching business law practice that helps clients protect their businesses through the formation, growth, and succession stages. We can help you manage the registration of your trademarks, and our team can help you navigate violations of your mark even before an official registration takes place. Contact the Law Offices of Tyler Q. Dahl to uphold your common law trademark rights and get your work officially registered with the USPTO.

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Dahl Law Group

At Dahl Law Group, we’re not just a law firm. We’re your trusted advisor for your business and family from beginning to end. As your family and business grow, we will be there by your side. Our passion is providing you with peace of mind and protection through personalized estate and business planning.

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