(Updated: February 24, 2019) 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:
Alabama State Trademark Office
Alaska State Trademark Office
Arizona State Trademark Office
Arkansas State Trademark Office
California State Trademark Office
Colorado State Trademark Office
Connecticut State Trademark Office
Delaware State Trademark Office
DC DC Trademark Office
Florida State Trademark Office
Georgia State Trademark Office
Hawaii State Trademark Office
Idaho State Trademark Office
Illinois State Trademark Office
Indiana State Trademark Office
Iowa State Trademark Office
Kansas State Trademark Office
Kentucky State Trademark Office
Louisiana State Trademark Office
Maine State Trademark Office
Maryland State Trademark Office
Massachusetts State Trademark Office
Michigan State Trademark Office
Minnesota State Trademark Office
Mississippi State Trademark Office
Missouri State Trademark Office
Montana State Trademark Office
Nebraska State Trademark Office
Nevada State Trademark Office
New Hampshire State Trademark Office
New Jersey State Trademark Office
New Mexico State Trademark Office
New York State Trademark Office
North Carolina State Trademark Office
North Dakota State Trademark Office
Ohio State Trademark Office
Oklahoma State Trademark Office
Oregon State Trademark Office
Pennsylvania State Trademark Office
Rhode Island State Trademark Office
South Carolina State Trademark Office
South Dakota State Trademark Office
Tennessee State Trademark Office
Texas State Trademark Office
Utah State Trademark Office
Vermont State Trademark Office
Virginia State Trademark Office
Washington State Trademark Office
West Virginia State Trademark Office
Wisconsin State Trademark Office
Wyoming State Trademark Office
Puerto Rico Trademark Office



Photo: ThinkStock

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