As we have shared before, the laws and regulations related to trademarks, patents and copyrights can be confusing. For example, recently a SmallBusiness.com user asked us why there are state trademark offices when most trademark registrations take place at the federal level with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. As we always do before answering questions like this, we start with this caveat: Seek information from trusted professional advisors on an issue like this because every situation is unique and the internet (even us) provides, at best, generalities.


Also on SmallBusiness.com | Trademark and Copyright Information
On the SmallBusiness.com WIKI | Copyrights and trademarks


First things first | Don’t confuse the term “trademark” with the act of registering or licensing a company. When you register for certain state permits or licenses, you are not registering your company’s trademark.


Reasons why a small business might prefer a state trademark over a federal trademark

Reasons a small business might prefer a state trademark over a federal trademark include these:

Not qualified for a federal trademark | Federal trademarks are issued only to trademarks involved in interstate commerce (businesses that cross state lines). Therefore, if you don’t qualify for a federal trademark because you do not engage in interstate commerce, your only choice is to register your trademark at the state level.

Quicker to register than a federal trademark | Obtaining a federal trademark may take from 9 to 16 months, whereas obtaining a state registration is usually a quicker process, sometimes taking only a few weeks.

Less hassle, less expensive | Getting a state trademark is less complicated and costly than a federal registration

Reasons why a small business might prefer a federal trademark over a state trademark

Reasons a small business might prefer a federal trademark over a state trademark include these:

All things equal, federal trademark take precedence over a state trademark | Federal registration has priority over a state trademark registration if the federal registration was obtained prior to the state’s application date

Not useful in international disputes | State trademark registrations cannot form the basis for filings in other countries.

Not useful in custom disputes | A federal trademark registration can be used to stop unauthorized imports at the U.S. border, but a state trademark registration cannot.

Limited geographic protection | A state registration protects the mark–at most–within the borders of the state and does not protect the mark in the rest of the United States.

Use of the ® symbol | The owner of a federal trademark registration may use the ® symbol. A state trademark registration does not confer the right to use the ® symbol.


Links to trademark information in all 50 states

State:Website Address:
AlabamaState Trademark Office
AlaskaState Trademark Office
ArizonaState Trademark Office
ArkansasState Trademark Office
CaliforniaState Trademark Office
ColoradoState Trademark Office
ConnecticutState Trademark Office
DelawareState Trademark Office
District of ColumbiaDC Trademark Office
FloridaState Trademark Office
GeorgiaState Trademark Office
HawaiiState Trademark Office
IdahoState Trademark Office
IllinoisState Trademark Office
IndianaState Trademark Office
IowaState Trademark Office
KansasState Trademark Office
KentuckyState Trademark Office
LouisianaState Trademark Office
State Trademark Office
MaineState Trademark Office
MarylandState Trademark Office
MassachusettsState Trademark Office
MichiganState Trademark Office
MinnesotaState Trademark Office
MississippiState Trademark Office
MissouriState Trademark Office
MontanaState Trademark Office
NebraskaState Trademark Office
NevadaState Trademark Office
New HampshireState Trademark Office
New JerseyState Trademark Office
New MexicoState Trademark Office
New YorkState Trademark Office
North CarolinaState Trademark Office
North DakotaState Trademark Office
OhioState Trademark Office
OklahomaState Trademark Office
OregonState Trademark Office
PennsylvaniaState Trademark Office
Rhode IslandState Trademark Office
South CarolinaState Trademark Office
South DakotaState Trademark Office
TennesseeState Trademark Office
TexasState Trademark Office
UtahState Trademark Office
VermontState Trademark Office
VirginiaState Trademark Office
WashingtonState Trademark Office
West VirginiaState Trademark Office
WisconsinState Trademark Office
WyomingState Trademark Office
Puerto RicoPuerto Rico Trademark Office


Photo: ThinkStock

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