Trademark Registration

If your department or program is interested in registering a trademark, please review the following information and fill out the MSU Trademark Registration questionnaire at the bottom of this page.

Trademarks vs. Service Marks

  • trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.
  • service mark is the same as a trademark, except it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. 

Trademark Rights

  • You do not need to register a trademark to have protectable exclusive rights in it. Simply by using a mark on or in connection with goods, or by displaying the mark in the sale or advertising of services, you can automatically acquire trademark rights in the geographic area of use. The best way to protect a trademark is to ensure that it is used consistently and for a long period of time. Trademark protection begins with disciplined use rather than upon registration.
  • Usage is the most significant factor for trademark protection in the United States. Consistent use is the means by which trademark rights are established. Certain circumstances determine whether it is appropriate to register a mark.

Federal Trademark Registration

A federal trademark application is based on: 

  • The actual use of the mark in interstate commerce, and
  • Authentic intention to use the mark in federally regulated commerce

Trademark applications are subject to an examination process, and registration will be refused if the mark:

  • Is not capable of distinguishing the applicant's goods or services from those of others
  • Resembles another registered trademark as likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception when compared to the applicant's goods or services
  • Consists of immoral or scandalous matter
  • Consists of a flag or coat of arms of the United States or other government entity
  • Consists of the name, portrait or signature of a living individual without that person's consent
  • Is merely deceptive or deceptively descriptive of applicant's goods or services and has not become recognized as an indication of the source
  • Includes a geographic location that consumers are likely to believe, mistakenly, that the goods or services have their origin or are connected with the geographic location
  • Comprises any matter that other entities need to compete effectively in the market

Request for Trademark Registration

Complete the Trademark Registration Application and return it, along with the appropriate collateral materials/examples, to University Licensing Programs at