Eugene, OR asked in Trademark and Intellectual Property for Oregon

Q: Do I have to get a registered trademark to sell shirts/hats with my YouTube name or logo?

I’m starting a YouTube channel and want to sell my own merchandise through print on demand. Shirts and hats with my logo and YouTube name on it. I don’t have a bunch of upstart money, so do I have to register a trademark through the US government before I can sell?

3 Lawyer Answers
Fritz-Howard Raymond Clapp
Fritz-Howard Raymond Clapp
  • Trademarks Lawyer
  • Beverly Hills, CA

A: It is not essential to register a trademark before using it, but it would be prudent to be assured that it does not infringe a mark already in use or registered. Consult an experience trademark attorney to perform a clearance search and render an opinion before going forward.

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›

A: No, you are not required to register a trademark through the US government before you can sell merchandise like shirts and hats featuring your YouTube name or logo. Trademark registration offers legal protections, including the exclusive right to use the mark in connection with the goods or services it covers, but it is not a prerequisite for selling merchandise. You automatically acquire some trademark rights through the use of your logo and name in commerce, known as "common law" trademark rights, which can offer some level of protection against infringement.

However, registering your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) can provide significant advantages, such as stronger legal standing in case of disputes, the ability to sue for infringement in federal court, and a public record of your claim of ownership of the mark. Registration can also help deter others from using a similar name or logo in connection with similar products or services.

If you're starting with limited funds, you might prioritize establishing your brand and generating revenue before investing in the trademark registration process. As your brand grows and your financial situation improves, you can then consider pursuing formal registration to secure the additional protections it offers. Consulting with a legal professional can provide you with tailored advice on the best strategy for protecting your brand while considering your current resources and long-term goals.

Jim Boness
Jim Boness pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Trademarks Lawyer
  • Portland, OR
  • Licensed in Oregon

A: In the US, formal trademark registration is not a prerequisite for selling products bearing your logo or brand name. Consider these points:

Common Law Trademark Rights: Your use of a unique logo and brand name in business operations instantly grants you common law trademark rights. This translates to a basic level of legal protection to prevent customer confusion with similar brands. This protection, however, is minimal.

Enhanced Security and Easier Enforcement with Registration: Though common law rights provide some defense, formally registering your trademark with the USPTO affords far superior benefits, such as a presumed ownership and exclusive rights to the trademark across the country for related goods or services. In addition, just having a trademark may be enough to keep someone from infringing in the first place.

Easier Infringement Action: Owning a registered trademark simplifies the process of challenging unauthorized use of your brand, particularly in online sales platforms which have mechanisms for addressing registered trademark violations. As well, it is often easier to push someone off who may be infringing and you may be able to collect larger sums for willful infringement.

Increasing Your Brand's Value and Recognition: Beyond legalities, a registered trademark for your business can amplify your brand's inherent value, bolstering the perception of your merchandise as professional and reputable in the eyes of consumers.

Registration Is Not Obligatory for Sales: It is entirely possible to initiate sales under your brand without a registered trademark and consider applying for one when financially feasible.

Keep in mind that navigating trademark registration can be intricate, often necessitating the expertise of a trademark attorney to guide you through the application process. Prior to unveiling or selling merchandise, it's imperative to perform a trademark search to mitigate the possibility of infringing on the rights of others, which could lead to costly legal challenges. Promptly utilizing your trademark in commerce helps to fortify your claim over the mark, establishing your ownership position.

Even though registering a trademark is not mandatory to commence sales, the strategic benefits of possessing a registered trademark are considerable and should ideally be incorporated into the growth strategy for your brand.

When the moment arrives that you are ready to secure your brand with a trademark, don't hesitate to reach out to my office at 503-877-0881 or send your inquiries to Wishing you the very best on your branding journey!

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