The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) defines the concept of a trademark as “any word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things that identifies your goods or services.” Trademark rights come from their use in business, which means actively using a mark is fundamental to protecting it.
In this article, you will find out how to use a business trademark in Florida.
Trademark Ownership Rights – State Registration vs. Federal Registration
There are two methods of trademark registration in the United States – to register at the state level or apply for a federal trademark with the USPTO. Historically, trademark laws have been part of US common law.
With the introduction of the Lanham Act in 1946, the federal statute became the primary reference for trademark legislation nationwide. Additionally, each state has its own legislation dedicated solely to protecting trademark rights.
Florida is not an exception, as trademark owners can file for registration with the Department of State. Many start-up businesses do not have the time or budget required to obtain federal registration with USPTO.
In such cases, applying for a Florida trademark can be a cost-effective and pragmatic solution. If a company is focused on operating only within state jurisdiction, Florida trademark registration may also be a good option.
Please note that this alternative should be considered a temporary measure, as federal trademarks supersede state-registered marks.
Florida Trademark Registration – Full Walkthrough
Even though it is possible to use a trademark in Florida without necessarily registering it, unregistered marks enjoy limited protection in case of infringement. Accordingly, the best approach is to register a Florida trademark with the Department of State.
The first step is to consult with a Florida trademark attorney to clarify your reasons to file for registration and identify whether the proposed mark meets the statutory requirements. Once this phase is complete, the next step is to proceed with a thorough trademark search.
This process is crucial to guarantee that your mark is not in use by other businesses and does not create a “likelihood of confusion” with an already registered trademark. The innocence of prior use is not an excuse in case another party sues you for infringement, which means trademark search cannot be taken for granted.
The assistance of an experienced trademark attorney is fundamental in this process, as the research must include trade directories, business names, and several other databases consisting of potentially relevant information.
If the mark is available, it is time to fill out the applicable forms and submit them to the Florida Department of State with a filing fee. The application requires an accurate description of the goods or services where the mark is found.
Additionally, the applicant must show how the trademark is being used in conjunction with goods or services, submitting drawings, specimens, or other applicable materials as evidence.
The entire process of registration may take up to six weeks to complete. Florida trademark owners may file for renewal every five years, filing the required forms at least six months before the expiration date.