What Is a Trademark Registry?

Kathy Heydasch

A trademark registry lists all registered marks identifying a particular good or service. A trademark is any combination of word or image that represents a good or service. To protect a brand’s logo, colors, symbol, name or any other part, one must first file and receive a trademark status. Once registered, the registrant, usually a business, is the only entity that can use those marks for the benefit of the company. That registrant then can sue any party that infringes upon the rights granted by the trademark. If the violation is intentional, the consequences will be harsher than if someone unintentionally uses a trademark that is already registered.

Part of an application to register a trademark.
Part of an application to register a trademark.

When one wants to apply for trademark status, there is a considerable amount of research that needs to be done. The first step is to find the governing agency responsible for maintaining the trademark registry. A search should be done in several different ways to pull up any possible matches. For example, if a trademark contains a blooming flower, it may or may not be in violation with another registered trademark that shows another blooming flower. It is up to the governing agency to make that determination based upon the geographical location the image will be used, the type of good or service that will be provided, etc. A blooming flower that represents a national sales firm might not represent a commercial threat to a blooming flower that represents a local greenhouse.

Since a trademark registry is applicable only to those trademarks which fall under its jurisdiction, there is a limit to what protection one might receive for a trademark. For example, in the US, the jurisdiction falls to the US Patent and Trademark Office, but in the European Union, the jurisdiction falls to the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market. Governing agencies differ around the world and offer varying degrees of protection. One must research the rules associated with trademark ownership and protection if one wishes to enter the international market using a particular trademark.

Some trademarks are not registered in a trademark registry but are still recognized and protected as such. These are called common law trademarks. If one has used a particular logo for decades in a small community and another company moves in and begins to use the same symbol, the first company may sue for trademark infringement even though the trademark was never actually filed with a trademark registry.

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