Should I File for a State Trademark?

If you want to protect your brand name, logo, slogan, or any other distinctive sign that identifies your business, you may want to register a trademark. A trademark can help you prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark that could harm your reputation or goodwill. But where should you register your trademark? Should you file for a state trademark or a federal trademark?

Two one-way street signs

If you want to protect your brand name, logo, slogan, or any other distinctive sign that identifies your business, you may want to register a trademark. A trademark can help you prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark that could harm your reputation or goodwill. But where should you register your trademark? Should you file for a state trademark or a federal trademark?

The answer depends on several factors, such as the nature and scope of your business, the availability and cost of registration, and the level of protection you need. In this blog, we will explain the differences between state trademarks and federal trademarks, and help you decide which one is right for you.

What is a state trademark?

A state trademark is a trademark that is registered with a state office, usually the secretary of state or commerce department. Each state has its own laws and procedures for trademark registration, so the requirements, fees, and benefits may vary from state to state. However, some general characteristics of state trademarks are:

  • They are relatively quick and inexpensive to obtain. You typically need to fill out a form, submit a specimen or drawing of your mark, and pay a filing fee that ranges from about $50-$75 for each class of goods or services registered.

  • They only protect your mark within the state where you register it. You have the exclusive right to use your mark in connection with your goods or services in that state, but not in other states.

  • They do not give you the right to use the symbol ®. You can only use this symbol if you have a federal trademark registration. You can use either TM for a trademark or SM for a service mark instead.

  • They do not require actual use of your mark in commerce. You can register your mark before you start using it, as long as you have a bona fide intention to use it in the future.

What is a federal trademark?

A federal trademark is a trademark that is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It is governed by federal law and offers nationwide protection for your mark. Some general characteristics of federal trademarks are:

  • They are more complex and costly to obtain. You need to fill out an online application, provide information about your mark and its owner, submit a specimen or drawing of your mark, describe the goods or services associated with your mark and their class, and pay a filing fee that ranges from $250-$350 per class of goods or services registered.

  • They protect your mark throughout the United States. You have the exclusive right to use your mark in connection with your goods or services in all 50 states and U.S. territories.

  • They give you the right to use the symbol ®. You can use this symbol to indicate that you have a federally registered trademark and to deter potential infringers.

  • They require actual use of your mark in commerce or a bona fide intention to use it in commerce. You can file an application based on either use or intent to use, but you must eventually submit proof of use to obtain or maintain your registration.

Which one should I choose?

The choice between a state trademark and a federal trademark depends on your business goals and needs. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Where do you operate or plan to operate your business? If you only do business within one state or a few states, a state trademark may be sufficient for your needs. If you do business across the country or plan to expand nationally, a federal trademark may be more beneficial for you.

  • How unique is your mark? If your mark is very distinctive and unlikely to be confused with other marks, a state trademark may offer enough protection for you. If your mark is less distinctive or more likely to be confused with other marks, a federal trademark may offer more protection for you.

  • How much do you value your brand? If your brand is very important for your business success and reputation, a federal trademark may be worth the investment for you. A federal trademark can help you prevent others from using similar marks nationwide, enforce your rights against infringers in federal court, and enjoy other benefits such as customs recordation and international registration. If your brand is less important or less valuable for your business, a state trademark may be enough for you.

Conclusion

A state trademark and a federal trademark are both valid forms of trademark protection, but they have different advantages and disadvantages. A state trademark is cheaper and easier to obtain, but it only protects your mark within the state where you register it. A federal trademark is more expensive and complicated to obtain, but it protects your mark throughout the United States.

The decision between a state trademark and a federal trademark depends on several factors, such as the nature and scope of your business, the uniqueness of your mark, and the value of your brand. You should weigh the pros and cons of each option and consult with a trademark attorney to determine which one is right for you. Contact us today for more information