If you've been using your logo, specialty phrase or other branded design in the marketplace for a while, you might be thinking about trademarking it. While federal trademark isn't required for some protective benefits, it does add to the legal protection you can claim if someone else uses your mark.
One of the biggest benefits of a trademark is public notice on a national level regarding your ownership claim over the mark. If anyone else wants to trademark a similar design, they can find yours in the federal database and realize they can't use the design. You can also publish your phrase or design with the TM mark, alerting others that it is a trademarked item.
Another benefit of a federal trademark is that you are legally presumed to be the owner of the mark throughout the entire country. That means you can seek compensation or reparations from anyone who uses your mark and benefits from it. It also lets you protect your brand if people try to use your mark to defame you or your company.
Trademarks let you bring certain actions concerning your designs in federal court. With the right legal strategy, you might find that federal court is a better place to bring your action than local or state courts; without a federal trademark claim, you'd be unable to do so.
Trademarking does come with some disadvantages. It's not free, and the fees aren't a drop in the bucket to smaller businesses. If you feel the benefits are worth the cost, consider working with a business law professional to manage the process, which can help you avoid expensive mistakes.
Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office, "Protecting Your Trademark," accessed Nov. 04, 2016