What are my trademark rights in California?

Businesses use trademarks to brand products and services, build consumer confidence, and eliminate confusion about the source of goods and services. Trademark or servicemark infringement can result in the costly confusion of your product or service with another.

While many California businesses register their trademarks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, you can still establish rights in a mark by legitimately using it in the course of business, regardless of whether you've registered the mark with the government. That means you can use "TM" or "SM" to indicate "trademark" or "servicemark" even if you haven't yet applied to register the mark. However, the "®" symbol can only be used after the mark has been registered and not during the application process.

You can exercise your trademark rights to prevent other parties from using your mark or a similar mark to confuse consumers about where a product comes from. Servicemark rights can be used in the same way with regard to a particular service.

Trademark law does not necessarily prohibit the reproduction of a trademark. However, if the reproduction of a trademark results in confusion as to the source of the good or service, then the owner of the trademark can enforce his or her trademark rights and have the unauthorized usage stopped.

An intellectual property law attorney can explain your legal options if you believe another party has infringed upon your trademark. An attorney can also explain the advantages of registering your trademark with the federal government, as well as what examples and documents you'll need to get your mark registered.

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