On a recent trip to Puerto Rico, I noticed two things related to trademark law. The first: there are no Target stores in Puerto Rico. The second: there are several moving trucks with the word “Target” and a big red bullseye on the side. So where were all the Target stores and how did those trucks use that same name and logo?
As it turns out, and not much to my surprise, there is a trademark issue at hand. That big red bullseye that we all recognize and associate with Target stores is used by a completely different company in Puerto Rico, a rental car company. And due to trademark law, Target stores are not allowed to operate on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, without paying a hefty licensing fee to Target the Puerto Rican rental car company.
Territory vs. Mainland – How Trademark Law Works
This made me question how trademark law works between a U.S. territory and the mainland. Apparently, Puerto Rico’s trademark laws are separate from the United States. In other words, if you want to obtain a trademark in both the United States and Puerto Rico, you must register the mark in both places.
As we know, Puerto Rico is a commonwealth territory governed by the United States. If a trademark applicant plans to do business in Puerto Rico, the safest bet is to register the mark with both the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the State Department of Puerto Rico.