As a general rule, a mark is owned by the business that is first to use it in a commercial context—that is, the first to attach the mark to a product or use the mark when marketing a product or service. After the first use, the owner may be able to prevent others from using it, or a similar trademark, for their goods and services as long as the owner continues to use the mark in connection with its goods and services.
First use can also be established by filing an intent-to-use (ITU) trademark registration application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The filing date of this application will be considered the date of first use if the applicant puts the mark into actual use within required time limits (between six months and three years, depending on the reasons for the delay and whether the applicant seeks and pays for extensions), and follows up to obtain an actual registration.
Related terms: assignment of mark; average, reasonably prudent, consumer; competing and non-competing products; geographically separate market; intent-to-use application; licensing of marks; naked license; ownership of mark in the U.S.; registrant; related products and services; senior and junior users of marks; use of mark.