Trademarks rights are also very subjective and uncertain. You don't really know the rights you might have in a mark until after a court decision. Review and an opinion by a qualified attorney is highly advisable.
My wife is in the early stages of developing a company that will be an event planning/coordination company (largely for weddings and corporate events - as is her background) while also potentially offering a retail side selling products to other event planners.
For the retail side, she hopes to offer a unique design/pattern of goods.
She is adamant that she wants to set up a trademark for the company and associated products "just in case anyone steals her idea', which I don't think is necessary given the costs associated. I think in this case, she's more worried about someone stealing her "trade name" because that trade name is tied to the retail products she hopes to sell.
Say, for instance, her event planning company would be marketed to Scotish people, and the retail product she'd be looking to sell would be various items (ring pillows, garter belts, picture frames, etc) that are all branded with Scotish Tartan themes (her own design, no existing tartans). So, she would want to name the comapny "Tartan Events", and then the retail arm would be something like "House of Tartan" and then she would sell the products out of that. This isn't the exact idea, but it's along the same lines. Is this something that would even need a trademark?
I've seen some other posts about trademarking, but nothing that clearly spells out when they are really necessary.
Discussions on intellectual property is always a bit complicated. It depends, really, on the scale and the reach of your company. Even with a trademark symbol it is is pretty easy for other people to make something similar to your work and claim it as their own. They just have to be different enough to claim originality. Still, it's a good idea to formally claim a logo or a specific design if you expect it to be a big concern in the future.
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Any time you claim rights in a mark, you may use the "TM" (trademark) or "SM" (service mark) designation to alert the public to your claim, regardless of whether you have filed an application with the USPTO. However, you may use the federal registration symbol "®" only after the USPTO actually registers a mark , and not while an application is pending. Also, you may use the registration symbol with the mark only on or in connection with the goods and/or services listed in the federal trademark registration.