Common Law Rights
A company generates common law rights in its trademark the minute it begins using that mark to promote its products or services in commerce. Under the common law, the first entity to use a mark in connection with the sale of goods or services in commerce is the owner of that mark in the geographic area in which it is being used. These common law rights also extend into surrounding geographic areas that may be considered a natural and logical expansion of the entity’s products or services.
However, one of the downsides to relying on common law trademark protection is the limited geographic scope of the rights. In the event a junior user were to begin using the same or similar trademark on related goods in a remote geographic region with no knowledge that the senior user had previously and consistently been using that mark in the United States, then the junior user would have superior rights to the trademark in that geographic region, despite the fact that the senior user was the prior user of the trademark.