Friday, August 13, 2010

Protecting Your Trademark

A trademark's viability depends on continued use and vigilance. When it comes to trademarks, the law has a "use it or lose it" philosophy, which makes sense in light of a trademark's role as an identifier of the source of goods and services. If there are no goods and services that are being promoted through use of the trademark, it no longer functions as one. A subsequent user can file to cancel a dormant federally registered mark, or can defend an infringement action based on abandonment.

The length of time it takes for an unused trademark to be considered abandoned varies, but the owner of a trademark it wished to keep is advised to use it. There are, of course, United States Patent and Trademark Office requirements for periodic filings, the failure to comply with can result in abandonment.

In addition to lapse by nonuse, there is the possibility that failure to protect a trademark can result in its loss. Aspirin was originally a trademark, but was allowed to enter the public domain. Kleenex (r) and Xerox (r) are regularly policed and defended by their owners to prevent this. We send out letters to users of clients' trademarks to advise of their rights and to demand cessation.

Periodic searches on the Internet of your own trademark are prudent. There are companies that provide this service for a fee, and can access databases not always readily available.

Additional information about trademarks can be found at the Trademark Section of our website at