Federal registration of your mark is not required, but it will enhance your rights. Using your trademark in commerce, with specific goods and services, establishes legal rights in the mark, known as “common-law” rights. However, those common-law rights may be limited. Depending on your situation, those rights might only cover a limited geographic area and it might be more difficult to enforce those rights than it would be if you have a federal registration.
Federal registration, however, can greatly enhance those rights. Specifically, federal registration of your trademark on the Principal Register provides the following advantages:
Being listed in the USPTO’s database means that others considering potential marks can find your mark when they search the USPTO database to see if their mark is available. The existence of your mark in the database can help others to avoid selecting a mark that is too similar to yours. In addition, the USPTO relies on the same database for its own search and will find your mark when examining someone else’s application. The USPTO will cite your registration against a confusingly similar mark in a later-filed application, preventing a potentially conflicting trademark from registering.
A federal trademark registration means that you have the right to use the coveted “R in the circle” symbol ® with your mark, something you cannot do unless your mark is federally registered. That symbol is typically placed on the right side of a mark and indicates that you have federally registered your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. It puts the public on notice that your mark is registered and that you have nationwide rights in it.