Does a trademark need to be registered to be protected?

It depends. In the U.S., a trademark can be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Federal registrations with the USPTO establish trademark rights as of a certain date and provide a presumption that the registrant owns a valid trademark, among other things. For these reasons, trademark owners often obtain USPTO registrations.

Outside the U.S., many other countries have adopted similar systems, including the ability for trademark owners to register their trademarks. Both in the U.S. and in other countries, depending on the relevant laws, a trademark owner may still have certain rights without a registration. Typically, a trademark owner’s rights without a registration (often known as common law rights) may be weaker than rights that are subject to a registration. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that registering a company with a government office or getting a permit to do business in a specific country or state (for example, a business registration) usually doesn’t itself create a trademark right.

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