Once you use an original mark for any product or service you provide in the market, you automatically have certain rights to it. As long as you, as the creator, use the mark for your goods and services whether it for the local or national market. Given it does not have conflicts or similarities with other already-registered trademarks, you will be recognized as the first owner.
A lot of people assume that “first use” means the time you first use the mark after it is registered. Actually, you technically do not have to register the mark to use it. That is why we use the “TM” and “R” symbols. “TM” means that you’re already using the mark for products and services that are already in the market, but you are still in the process of getting it registered. While “R”, as you might already, means that the mark is already registered and is fully protected under trademark law.
So the date of first use is when you start selling products or services under the label of your mark, even if you’re still using “TM”. As a matter of fact, you can present this as proof of ownership while you are still processing the registration. You can show that your mark has already appeared on your products so that it might be easier for the trademark office examiners to approve of your application.
Take note, though, that putting the mark only on documents is not considered first use. They really have to be used on products or services that are already on sale in the market.
Oftentimes, you’ll run across another party who will claim that you are infringing on their trademark. As mentioned earlier, you can use the date of first use as proof that the brand is yours and that you used it first. This, again, can be a way to convince the trademark office examiner.