Friday, October 30, 2009

Film Company TM: State, Federal or International Registration?

Dear Rich: I have a film production company, the name of which I have been using for nearly 10 years, and for which I purchased a website for in 2005. I have also registered it as a business within my state. However, my goal, of course is to one day be internationally recognized. Someone from another country has begun using the same name for their own film projects. Is there something I should be doing now to gain international proprietary rights to the name? Or is that even possible? The short answer is that you should federally register the name of your film company. Registering your name as a business in your state -- for example, as a dba or as a corporate name does not give you any trademark rights. Even registering your name with your state's trademark office will not provide the protection you seek (and is usually not worth the effort). A U.S. registration will preserve your U.S. rights and enable you to stop others from using a similar name for film production services in the U.S. (Read more about enforcing TM rights, here.)  As for pursuing international rights, that may be premature since you haven't indicated that you are currently engaged in international commerce. In any case, securing rights in other nations -- there is no such thing as an "international trademark" -- has become easier in recent years with the adoption of the Madrid System. Nolo -- my employer -- can assist with federal registration, and the Dear Rich Staff prepared a helpful guide to the process.