State Trademark Registration

April 26, 2023 Alerts and Newsletters

The United States has two levels of trademark registration: state and federal. A state trademark registration is issued by a state office and protects a trademark only in that state, whereas a federal trademark is issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and protects the trademark nationally.

Each state has its own trademark laws and, therefore, each state differs in its trademark registration requirements and benefits. It’s best to consult with an attorney who is licensed in the specific state in which you wish to register.

Limitations of state registrations

  • Limited to the borders of the specific state. The rights and benefits afforded by a state trademark registration are limited to the borders of the state issuing the registration. For a business to have registered trademark rights in other states, the business must file and obtain state trademark registrations in those specific states or secure a federal trademark registration. A trademark attorney can advise whether a handful of state registrations or federal registration is the best strategy for your specific business needs and realities.
  • Legal benefits conferred by a state registration varies from state to state. The benefits conferred by a state registration can vary drastically between states. For example, though the registrability requirements are nearly identical in Massachusetts and Maine, a trademark registration in Massachusetts is valid for five years and grants the registrant several benefits in litigation; whereas a Maine trademark registration is valid for ten years but does confer the same benefits in litigation. Despite these variations, registering a trademark on the state level may be the best strategy for a business.

Why file?

  • Only using the mark in the specific state. A state trademark is perfect for businesses that plan to remain within the borders of their state. Examples of such businesses include local gyms, daycare centers, dog groomers, and medical practices.
  • State trademarks are easier on the budget. Businesses with limited financial resources may not have the budget for federal trademark registration, which can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars by the time an application proceeds to registration. The filling fees associated with state trademark registration are much lower (ranging from $15­–$100 depending on the state). For developing businesses, undergoing the federal trademark registration process may be costly. If the business is focused on growing within one state, obtaining a state trademark registration may be more feasible, and will not preclude that business from filing for a federal trademark registration later.
  • The registration process for state trademarks is faster. The process of registering a state trademark is much quicker than the federal trademark process. The federal trademark registration process can take years, whereas the state trademark registration process generally takes only a few months.
  • Federal registration may be unattainable. When there is a conflict between state law and federal law, obtaining a state trademark registration would be the only option for protecting businesses brands. For example, recreational and medicinal cannabis cultivation and sales are legal in some states, but illegal under federal law. Thus, a cannabis business could obtain a state trademark registration for its cannabis-related goods and services, but not a federal trademark registration.

A state trademark registration can be a vital part to many businesses’ intellectual property portfolios. Please contact a member of Verrill’s Intellectual Property Group with any questions and to discuss whether state or federal registration is right for your business or organization.