There are a few reasons for registering:
- Geography. All registrations are good in all fifty states and all territories of the United States.
- Public notice. In both a trademark and a copyright registration certificate, the owner of the intellectual property is listed. The public is able to view this information.
- Public descriptions. In a trademark certificate, the goods and services are listed. In a copyright certificate, a brief description of the work is filed, along with copies of the work itself.
- Barriers to lawsuits. If a trademark is not registered, it is considered a common law trademark. The goods/services and geography of the mark must be argued in court if there is infringement. No infringement lawsuit can be filed on a copyright that is not registered. Should there be infringement before registration of a copyright, the copyright owner cannot collect statutory damages up to $150,000 and attorney’s fees and is only allowed to collect “actual damages” for the copyright infringement.
- Federal law. The power of federal law to help with damages in any intellectual property lawsuit comes only with registration. State trademark laws are weaker than federal trademark laws (and, in most cases, useless in comparison). There are no state copyright laws.
- Ease of cataloging, licensing and assigning. This is a thought that not many people have. If a mark or work is registered, then there is a registration number. That number is a simple reference in licensing and sale agreements.
- Cost of enforcement. Although trademark litigation costs are difficult to estimate, the AIPLA 2007 Economic Survey found that if less than $1 million is at risk in the trademark litigation, mean costs are $184,000 through the discovery phase and $327,000 if the litigation is concluded through trial. With a trademark registration, you can file opposition proceedings that are cheaper than federal lawsuits. Many up-front trademark lawsuit costs are also cut by filing and registering the marks. This means that the goods and services are defined and the geography is defined by the trademark registration process.
See our video blog on the importance of a copyright registration:
See our video blog on the differences between copyright and trademark law – including the implications for registering both: