What is a trademark?
A trademark is a form of intellectual property that grants the exclusive use of words, logos, phrases, symbols, or designs (also referred to as a “mark”) to distinguish goods or services. The ultimate goal of trademarks is to protect consumers from brand confusion and being tricked into buying an unintended product.
Related – Should I trademark my business name?
How do you register a trademark?
To register a federal trademark, an application is filed with the United States Patent Trademark Office (USPTO), which is the federal agency that governs the enforceability of trademark protection.
How long does it take to register a trademark?
The process of doing the trademark search and application can be completed in a few days, however, the time to get approval can take several years, with an average time of 12-18 months. There are limited trademark rights without federal registration (see common law trademark); however, nationwide trademark protection is available once the application is filed with the USPTO.
When do trademarks expire?
Federal trademark registration can remain valid for 10 years but can last indefinitely if properly maintained. Trademarks registered at the state level will last for different periods of time, depending on the laws of the individual state.
How is a trademark maintained?
Although the active commercial use of a trademark is important, this alone will not preserve the validity of your trademark. After the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grants a trademark, there are many milestone deadlines that must be met and fees to pay in order to maintain trademark status.
Between the fifth and sixth years after the registration date, a document known as a “Section 8 Affidavit” (also called a Declaration of Use) must be filed. This affidavit requires that the trademark owner state whether the mark is in continuous use through a sworn statement. The owner can file a request for a grace period to allow for the submission of the affidavit for up to months past the sixth year mark. At the same time the Section 8 Affidavit is filed, you can submit a Section 15 Declaration. Submitting a Section 15 Declaration isn’t required but provides added protection from potential infringement or challenges to trademark ownership.
To extend the life of your trademark registration past the ten-year period, you will need to file a Section 9 Affidavit between the ninth and tenth years from the date of registration.
In the tenth year after registration, the trademark owner must provide actual proof of continuous use of the mark in commerce. This is done by submitting photographic evidence of the mark on products or advertising materials. Every ten years going forward, the owner will need to follow this same procedure or else abandon the trademark.
Failure to comply with the deadline requirements will result in a loss of trademark rights, and thus, the owner loses the enforcement rights against infringers. The USPTO offers a 6-month grace period to renew the registration, however, there will be additional fees.
The trademark application process may seem pretty simple, but using a trademark attorney can help ensure the mark is fully protected, withstand challenges, and ensure timely filings.
USPTO–Trademark Registration Maintenance/Renewal/Correction Forms: https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-application-process/filing-online/registration-maintenancerenewalcorrection-forms