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What does "First to use" mean in trademark law?

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Written by Tomas Orsula

Senior Trademark Attorney

In trademark law, "first to use" refers to a system where priority right to a trademark is granted to the entity first using the mark in commerce, as opposed to the "first to file" system, where what matters is being the first to file a trademark application.

In practice, in a first-to-use country, registration is still typically awarded to the first applicant (unless other issues are rendering the mark unregistrable), with the difference of the mark's earlier user being able to come forward and oppose the application.

Since the first-to-file system is more clear-cut, only a minority of countries adopt the first-to-use system.

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