This is the third and final post in the trademark protection blog series.
If You’re Not Quite Ready for All of That…
If the federal process sounds like too much of an undertaking, and you decide that you want or need to hold off on making such a big investment of your time and money, you’re not alone. 98% of product and business names are never federally registered.
But there is another way to make a public claim to the trademark rights you own – CognateCM, the common law trademark (CM) registry. CognateCM is less time consuming, less expensive, and less confusing than registering with the USPTO. It takes about eight minutes and costs under $30 per year. Marks listed in the CognateCM registry gain the right to use CM after their trademark. Even if you do not register your mark, federally or with CognateCM, you can always use TM next to it. However, CM denotes both that it is a common law trademark and that it can be found on the CognateCM registry.
As I mentioned in the first post in this series, once you begin using your mark to identify your company, service, or product (read: you begin making sales using that name), you accrue what are known as “common law” trademark rights. No government registration is required. So instead of being overwhelmed by the long and costly process of federal registration, you can make a public claim to the rights you already own on the CM registry in a few short minutes.
Registering with CognateCM will give you the advantage of documenting your trademark rights in the public domain and providing public notice of the ownership you gain by using your mark. Being listed on the CM Registry also helps other people avoid choosing a mark similar to yours.
If these benefits sound familiar to you, it’s because they are similar to the benefits provided by registering with the USPTO.
Registering your mark with CognateCM also helps you get found in trademark searches. Getting found is crucial to preventing trademark conflicts.
Don’t let my lengthy explanation of the federal process (or honestly, even how simple and easy CognateCM sounds in comparison) deter you from registering with the USPTO! Anyone who has the time and the means should seek federal registration. But, the two processes do not have to be mutually exclusive. If you start by registering with CognateCM, you can still register with the USPTO at any time that you’re ready to tackle the process. And if you’ve already begun the federal registration process, you can register with CognateCM while you’re waiting for your federal application to be processed and approved. You just don’t want to do what most companies currently do – nothing.
If you already have a registered trademark for your company or product name, you most likely have other trademarks or product or service names that you have not federally registered. It is still a good idea to register on CognateCM to document ALL of your trademark rights.