November 21, 2019
Unregistered Trademarks (19-11.3)
Having a trademark registration is not completely necessary to get some degree of defense. Just using your brand name “in commerce” may be enough to garner protection, but that protection is meant for the consumers and not necessarily the brand owners.
This means that, without a formal registration, you would more than likely only be able to stop others from using a confusingly similar name within a certain geographic area. That area would likely encompass the same area, such as mile radius, where customers might get confused.
It is not a great idea to rely on this kind of strategy, though, because it could leave you high and dry after spending thousands of dollars building a brand, just to lose it. Take for example, the ballad of Burger King: how the king lost his crown. The original Burger King began in Illinois. Shortly after, a different Burger King opened in Florida and registered its trademark with the United States Trademark Office. The Florida company grew and grew, until they ended up in Illinois. The original sued. The court ruled that the original could only control a 20-mile radius around the first location. More importantly, the Florida group was free to expand their Burger King all over the USA
While it is true that some limited Trademark protection comes from just using your brand name in commerce, your best bet to stop people from stealing your brand and getting away with it is to get is registered!
LEARN MORE: What Every Brand Owner Needs To Know About Filing a Trademark Application & Four Reasons Why Not Having a Registered Trademark Can Cost You Big Money
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