My college and/or department has a specific program name/logo we would like to protect, do we need a federal registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in order to protect the program name/logo from usage by others?

No. In the United States, parties are not required to register their marks to obtain protectable rights. You can establish “common law” rights in a mark based solely on use of the mark in commerce, without a registration. However, owning a federal trademark registration on the Principal Register provides a number of significant advantages over common law rights alone, including:

  • A legal presumption of your ownership of the mark and your exclusive right to use the mark nationwide on or in connection with the goods/services listed in the registration (whereas a state registration only provides rights within the borders of that one state, and common law rights exist only for the specific area where the mark is used);
  • Public notice of your claim of ownership of the mark;
  • Listing in the USPTO’s online databases;
  • The right to use the federal registration symbol “® ”;
  • The ability to bring an action concerning the mark in federal court; and
  • The use of the U.S. registration as a basis to obtain registration in foreign countries.(Information from uspto.gov)

Sometimes a registration in the State of Alabama will be enough to protect the mark for the intended use. For more information about federal trademark registration, including fee structure, click here.

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