In Florida, business owners may protect their trademarks by registering them at the state and the federal level. Keep reading to find out how Florida’s trademark registration system works.
What is a Florida Trademark? – Understanding the Concept
As defined by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the term “trademark” refers to any word, phrase, symbol, design, or combination of these elements used to identify goods or services.
The trademark of a business defines how the customers will recognize it in the marketplace and distinguish it from competitors. Besides identifying the source of goods and services, trademarks provide legal protection and help businesses against counterfeiting and fraud.
In Florida, the owner of a business mark may file a trademark application either with Florida’s State Department (Division of Corporations) or the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Registering a trademark exclusively at the state level will validate the mark only within state jurisdiction; federal trademark registration grants protection nationwide, even permitting trademark owners to file in federal courts in case of infringement.
Is Florida Trademark Registration Mandatory?
There are no statutory rules that require the registration of trademarks at the state or federal level.
The Lanham Act (also known as the Trademark Act of 1946) is the federal statute that governs trademarks. Under the Act, both registered and unregistered trademarks have legal protection.
Please note that trademark ownership rights are established by use in business, not registration. Hence, you become the owner of a trademark when you start using it associated with goods or services.
It is possible to enforce a “common law trademark” in court, but these rights are limited to the geographic area in which the owner provides goods or services. Conversely, a registered trademark provides broader rights and protections.
The benefits of registering a trademark include:
- Precluding unauthorized third parties from registering the same mark in a similar business
- Enhance the value of the company’s brand
- Boosting credibility and consumer confidence
- Ensuring legal protection to expand the brand to other areas (state registration) and states (federal registration)
- Filing a lawsuit in a federal court in the event of infringement (federal registration)
How Does Florida Trademark Registration Work? – Taking a Closer Look
The first step to registering a trademark is to confirm whether the trademark is unique. Both Florida’s Department of State and the USPTO have databases where applicants can research and identify whether a trademark is registrable.
Then, the trademark owner must select the categories (“classes”) under which he or she wants to register the business’s goods or services.
At the state level, trademark protection is limited to the categories chosen during the registration process (although it is possible to add categories if the company expands).
Whether filing with Florida’s State Department or the USPTO, the application process is quite similar – the applicant must fill out the application forms, pay the required filing fee, and submit the forms adequately.
Registering a trademark only at the state level is usually quicker, as it will take approximately six weeks. The federal trademark registration process with the USPTO may take 12 to 24 months to complete.