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How can you obtain and protect a trademark?

As a business owner in Michigan or Illinois, you want your business to stand out from your competitors. One way of accomplishing this is by obtaining a trademark. The terms "trademark" and "brand name" are interchangeable; yet, according to FindLaw, in addition to words or names, a trademark can also be a device, a symbol or any combination of the four, used to indicate the source of goods for sale and to extinguish the goods from a particular seller or manufacturer from the goods sold or manufactured by competitors. 

If you are the owner of a trademark, you have the option of registering it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Federal registration of your trademark is voluntary, however, and you do not cede your protections under trademark law if you choose not to register it. The actual use of your trademark in commerce grants you common law trademark rights regardless of whether or not you choose to register it. This means that if you are the first to use a trademark, you may seek legal recourse if another company infringes your intellectual property rights by co-opting use of your established trademark. 

While not required, federal registration of your trademark nevertheless offers you certain advantages, especially in case of potential trademark infringement. Federal registration helps to establish you as the legal owner of your trademark. When you register a trademark, notice of your claim of ownership becomes public. Registering your trademark adds it to a database on the USPTO website, which means that other business owners looking to establish a trademark will be able to find your mark in the searchable system and know that it is not available to them. 

Federal registration of your trademark can also benefit you in international business matters. You can help prevent importation of foreign goods that infringe on your mark by filing your federal trademark registration with U.S. Customs Service. Conversely, if you wish to establish your trademark in another country, your federal registration can serve as a basis for obtaining the foreign trademark registration. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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