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Have You Registered Your Trademark? Here Is a Low-Cost Option

Protecting the intellectual property rights of members is a top SEMA priority. The process begins when companies establish certain legal rights by obtaining patents, and by registering their trademarks and copyrights with government agencies in the United States and other countries.

With respect to trademarks, SEMA urges companies to register their most valuable marks at the federal level with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Federal registrations provide nationwide coverage and are legally admissible evidence showing that the owner has the exclusive and, eventually, incontestable right to use the trademark. 

Nevertheless, there are instances when it may be useful to register your less valuable marks at the state level. Some primary reasons are that the typical fee is minimal, the time to register is usually quick, the examination process may not be as stringent as that at the federal level and a company employee can file the modest paperwork with state officials. While the protection and evidentiary value of state registrations are generally limited to one particular state, a state registration may nonetheless provide a good defense to third parties adopting confusingly similar trademarks, and it may discourage potential infringers since state registrations typically appear in trademark search reports.

Whether you are test-launching a new product or seeking to secure a minimum level of protection in advance of securing a federal registration, registering the mark in one or several states may be a useful tool. View the list of trademark offices for all 50 states.

A basic guide to protecting your patents, trademarks and copyrights is available at www.sema.org/ipr.

Questions may be directed to Stuart Gosswein at stuartg@sema.org.