Trademark registration is optional, but registration of your mark with the US Patent & Trademark Office provides significant benefits. The following comments apply to registrations on the Principal Register; to learn more about the Supplemental Register, read our guide "What Is the Difference Between the Principal Register and the Supplemental Register?"
Powerful presumptions. The registrant receives the benefit of a legal presumption that it owns the mark and has the exclusive right to use it in the US for the goods and/or services in the registration. Some grounds for challenge drop away five years after registration, and others are strengthened further if the registrant is able to make the registration “incontestable” no sooner than five years after registration issues.
Registration symbol. Registration gives the owner (or its authorized licensees) the right to use the ® registered trademark symbol in connection with the products or services for which the mark is registered.
Enforcement rights. Federal trademark registration gives the registrant the right to bring certain types of trademark claims in federal court (although common-law claims are available in federal court, too), the ability to record the registration with U.S. Customs to prevent import of goods that bear infringing marks, and more.
Deterrent value. Having a registration or pending application with the USPTO can help dissuade third parties from adopting a mark that is too similar to your mark, since US federal trademark data is a core part of most trademark clearance searches, like the searches you can run on TrademarkClear.com. Registration thus helps avoid conflicts and preserve the uniqueness of your mark in the marketplace.
Geographical coverage. Common-law rights only protect a mark where it is known by consumers. Federal registration will protect a mark across the United States, with some important limitations. First, the mark needs to be in use in “interstate commerce” in order to be registrable in the first place. Second, the owner of a federal trademark registration cannot necessarily enforce the mark immediately in a place where its mark is not yet in use – the owner of a registration for a mark used for products sold only in Oregon and Washington can’t make the junior user of a confusingly similar mark for products sold only in Florida stop immediately, but will be able to do so when the registrant is ready to enter the Florida market. Third, registration does not give the registrant rights against a prior user of a similar mark, even if that use is unregistered, in the geographic area in which the prior user was using the mark at the time of registration.
What about protecting my mark outside of the US? Trademark protection is available on a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis. Registering a mark internationally has similar benefits to registration in the US, although the exact details vary from place to place. In many jurisdictions, trademarks (other than internationally famous marks) have to be registered in order to receive any protection.