A trademark identifies and distinguishes your brand. It’s a vital method of protecting your name against those who might use the same or similar, either intentionally or unintentionally. Once a trademark is registered then legally it’s protected from being used by anyone else.
What is a trademark?
It’s a mark—most commonly a symbol, name, and/or logo—that allows consumers to distinguish your brand or product from others. A trademark must be unique, and it also can’t resemble others already in use. For instance, you couldn’t register “meBay” as it’s far too similar to eBay.
When a trademark is registered in the USA it lasts forever, as long as certain requirements are met. These are:
- The trademark must be renewed every 10 years: However, this can only be done if the registered mark is still in use between years 5-6
- The relevant maintenance documents must be filed in a specified time frame
- The owner of the trademark meets several legal requirements
The importance of good trademark maintenance
To keep a trademark it’s necessary to prove that it’s in use. This is done to prevent companies and/or individuals from building up a stash of unused trademarks. It’s a legal requirement that those not in use are abandoned so the United States Patent Trademark Office (USPTO) can remove them from their records.
Proof is provided by filing the following between year’s five and six of the original trademark registration:
- A section 8 Affidavit: This confirms that you’re still using the trademark as described in the registration documents
- A section 15 Declaration: Also referred to as the Declaration of Incontestability. While it’s not a legal requirement to return this form it’s highly advisable as it states that the trademark is free from challenge. It also provides a level of protection against possible future cases of infringement
Between years nine and ten it’s necessary to make the application for renewal—the Section 9 Affidavit. Once again, this confirms you’re using the trademark in the manner for which it was registered and effectively adds 10 more years to the trademark.
All the renewal documents are filed to the USPTO and can be done electronically via the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS).
Other important factors to take into consideration
- No reminders are issued for any of the necessary maintenance steps
- Late renewals are given a 6-month