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To register a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the trademark's owner first must use it in "interstate commerce." This means the mark must be used on a product or service that crosses state, national, or territorial lines, or that affects commerce crossing such lines -- for example, an Internet business or a restaurant or motel that caters to interstate or international customers.
The trademark owner must also be able to answer "no" to all of the following questions:
For information on distinctiveness vs. descriptiveness, see Nolo's Qualifying for Trademark Protection FAQ.