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Trademark (symbolized by "™") is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, used by a company to identify and distinguish the source of its goods from other company's goods.

It is not required to register a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (US PTO), but registration with the "Principal Register" does provide several advantages:

  • constructive notice to the public of the claim of ownership of the mark;
  • a legal presumption of the registrant's ownership of the mark and exclusive right to the use the mark nationwide in connection with the goods and/or services listed in the registration;
  • the ability to file a lawsuit in federal court to enforce the mark;
  • the use of the registration with the USPTO to register in foreign countries; and
  • the ability to file registration with the U.S. Customs Service to prevent importation of infringing foreign goods.

One may use the federal registration symbol "®" only after the USPTO actually registers a mark, and not while an application is pending. Also, you may use the registration symbol with the mark only on or in connection with the goods and/or services listed in the federal trademark registration.

Requirements for Registration

To qualify to register on the Principal Register, a mark must be "inherently distinctive." A mark qualifies as "inherently distinctive" if it is fanciful, arbitrary, or suggestive (requiring some imagination to see the connection between the mark and product or service). If the mark is merely descriptive, then there must be extensive use that develops a significant level of market awareness, also known as "secondary meaning." A "generic" mark, which is merely the name of the product or service, is given no protection under trademark law.


USPTO information
Trademark registration
Explanations of terms