In an effort to protect your business, you registered your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. If approved, you were issued a federal registration number. Now that you have taken that necessary step in the preservation of your brand, your business is protected for the rest of your tenure, right? Not exactly.
Registering a trademark is just the beginning of the journey, not the final step. It ensures that you are legally protected against infringement, but it is possible to have your registration canceled. If this were to happen, your only option would be to file a new application and start the process over again from the very beginning. However, repeating the process does not guarantee that your trademark will be re-registered, even if it was approved the first time.
The only way to look after your brand is to maintain and defend your trademark in order to keep it alive. Here are a few best practices:
Know your renewal dates
Part of maintaining your trademark is to prove that you are actively using it. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) actually requires you to regularly submit file renewals that demonstrate your continued trademark use. If you miss the renewal date by over six months, they will cancel your trademark. Since the USPTO only sends one email reminder, it is best to mark the renewal dates on your calendar:
- Your first renewal is due 5 years after your registration date
- Your second renewal is due 9 years after your registration date
- After that, every renewal is due 10 years after you submitted the second renewal
Monitor new trademark filings
Just as having a trademark is good for brand value, having other companies try to infringe on your trademark can actually have adverse effects on your overall brand. It is not under the USPTO’s purview to monitor all filings, so the responsibility of tracking new trademarks falls on your shoulders — or this can be done by a trademark attorney as well. Make it a point to regularly search the USPTO’s database and if you notice any that are too similar to yours, you can file an objection.
Your trademark should evolve with your brand
Just as you should never have a “set it and forget it” mentality towards your trademark, you should also never let your trademark fall stagnant. Registering your trademark early is the best strategy, but you should also be mindful of your future goals for new product development or any plans of expansion. If your company decides to modernize your current logo or packaging, for example, make sure those changes are also reflected in your trademark.
In addition to maintaining your trademark, it is also crucial to have your trademark valued as well. This not only gives you a competitive edge, it is also necessary when looking ahead and planning for other factors such as: trademark sale and/or purchase, tax reporting, determining royalty rates, and bankruptcy, among other reasons.