If you have a photography business that uses your name or another word(s), phrase(s), design(s), and/or logo(s) to indicate that you are the source of the photographs, consider filing for a Federal Trademark Registration. This is your “brand” no different than, for example, a clothing designer’s name.  If you provide or intend to provide photography services, license or even sell your prints, especially in more than one state, here are six reasons (of many) as to why you should protect your brand with a federal trademark registration:

(1)        You can use the federal trademark registration symbol, ®, with your brand, which may deter others from using your brand or one too similar to your trademark.

(2)        You will have a separate right to bring a lawsuit concerning your brand in federal court and a legal presumption that you own the brand and have the right to use it, thus eliminating the need for copious amounts of evidence and reducing litigation costs (essentially) for proving ownership.  (This is in many respects similar to having a copyright registration which gives you the legal presumption that you are the creator of the work)

(3)        A federal trademark registration creates rights throughout the entire United States and its territories.  If you have not filed for federal registration of your brand, your trademark protection is based solely on common law rights acquired by using your brand in commerce within a particular geographic area, which may limit enforcement of your trademark rights to the specific geographic areas where your brand is used.

(4)        A federal trademark registration is listed in the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s publicly accessible database of registered trademarks, which provides public notice of your trademark rights to anyone searching for similar trademarks and may deter others from using a trademark that is the same or similar to your brand.

An incidental and important benefit of trademark registration is that it may also help deter copyright infringements and in the event of an infringement may give you additional rights to sue for additional money damages under Trademark Law not available to you under copyright law.

(5)        A federal trademark registration shows your clients and potential clients that you are devoted to your photography services as an entrepreneurial business owner that can raise your reputation above other photographers in a crowded and highly competitive industry.

(6)        A federal trademark registration permits you to rightfully request that social media networks take down infringing uses of your brand on their networks.

Written by Josh Broitman who is a patent and trademark attorney who works with Ed and will be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding trademarks and photography. While the topics are often linked, many photographers, artists and illustrators are unfamiliar with the relationship between these different areas of the law.