A registered U.S. Trademark is used to protect the name or image associated with specific goods or services to prevent consumer confusion over the source of those goods or services. The indication that a name or image is protected by a registered trademark is the “Circle R” after the name or image. Prior to registration and while the mark is being used you can indicate you intent to protect it with a “TM” after the proposed mark. To have a mark registered is a process which usually takes from 6 months to more than a year, depending upon the objections, if any raised by the examining attorney. These are registered in the United States by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Without filing for protection, your protection, if any, is limited to common law trademark or service mark protection which prevents others from passing off as yours what they are selling. This is a more limited protection in geographic scope and to the identical industry without statutory remedies. It is also possible to obtain a trademark at the state level, which is easier to obtain, but the protection is limited to the boundaries of that state (or those states) where it is registered.