Trademark registration involves the establishment of rights in a mark based on legitimate use of the mark in commerce under the Lanham Act. Trademark registration with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), while not required, provides broader and stronger rights and protections than an unregistered trademark.
These advantages include: notice to the public of the registrant’s claim of ownership of the mark, a legal presumption of ownership nationwide, the exclusive right to use the mark on or in connection with the goods or services set forth in the registration, the ability to bring an action concerning the mark in federal court, the use of the U.S. registration as a basis to obtain registration in foreign countries, and the ability to file the U.S. registration with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to prevent importation of infringing foreign goods.
In order to register a trademark, the trademark must meet three requirements: first use in a particular trade or geographic market, non-functionality, and distinctiveness. Generic words, even if stylized or foreign, cannot be registered as trademarks.
Traditionally, derogatory references and immoral names could not be trademarked. In Matal v. Tam, 137 S.Ct. 1744 (2017), however, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the disparagement clause of the Lanham Act, which prohibited federal trademark registration for disparaging marks, was invalid under the First Amendment.
[Last updated in September of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]