A common misconception is that business owners have no recourse to protect their trademarks if the marks have not been registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This is simply untrue. While there are some factors that can make a mark unprotectable, the mere fact that it has not been registered with the USPTO is not one of them. Federal registration of a trademark is generally a good idea as registration can significantly increase the value of the mark. However, a protectable mark is entitled to legal protection in the geographical area in which the mark has been used even if the mark is unregistered.
Kelly G. Swartz is an intellectual property attorney. She focuses her Melbourne, FL practice on patent, trademark, and copyright matters.