Does a trademark need to be registered?

Minneapolis trademark attorney Jennifer Debrow explains why trademarks need to be registered.

Contact Jennifer Debrow

Email: [email protected]

Phone: (612) 632-3357


It doesn’t. Actually, in the U.S., trademark rights are granted through use of the mark, so you don’t have to have a federal registration.

There are some advantages to federal registration, which I’ll talk more about later, but the great thing about the U.S. is that we have what’s called common law rights, so just when you start using a mark, your rights start accruing at that time. The one downside of common law rights is that they are limited to a geographic area, so if you have a restaurant in New York, your rights are limited to the New York area, potentially, and someone else could use that same mark in Florida for a restaurant.

So one of the advantages of federal registration is nationwide priority of rights. You get to use that mark everywhere. But you do not have to have a federal registration for your trademark, and you can sue for infringement and everything without it. You can also use the ™ symbol on your trademark without a registration. It is only the ® symbol that’s restricted for registered marks.