Protecting Your Ideas - How a South Dakota Business Can Monitor and Protect Its Trademarks

 

How can I monitor my trademark?

Monitoring your trademark sounds simple, but you would be surprised how many trademarks are just sitting there with no one paying attention to them. Once your trademark registration is approved, you can start using the registered trademark symbol, ®. But your efforts to protect your trademark shouldn't end there. Throughout the life of the registration, you must police and enforce your rights. The USPTO registers trademarks, but it does not enforce them – that's up to you.

One way to protect your trademark is to monitor USPTO filings and oppose any applications to register trademarks that seem similar to yours. Another is to be assertive if you learn that another company is using a name or logo that’s similar to your trademark. Sometimes, a letter to the infringer will stop his actions.  However, if that doesn’t work, your federal trademark registration gives you the right to file a lawsuit.

Can I lose my rights in a trademark?

Yes. The most common way to lose rights in a mark is to stop using it with no intention to use it again. This is called “abandonment.” However, there are also ways in which trademark rights may be unintentionally lost.

How can I maintain my trademark?

To maintain your trademark, you must file your first maintenance document between the 5th and 6th year after the registration date. Your registration certificate contains important information on maintaining your federal registration. If the documents are not timely filed, your registration will be cancelled and cannot be revived or reinstated, making the filing of a brand new application to begin the overall process again necessary.

Rights in a federally registered trademark can last indefinitely if you continue to use the mark and file all necessary maintenance documents with the required fees at the appropriate times.

Can I reserve a trademark for the future?

Yes. If you are in the planning or development stage of creating a product, you may have an idea for the product’s name that you'd like to trademark, but you don't plan to immediately offer the product to the public. The USPTO allows you to file an "intent to use" (ITU) trademark registration. Filing for an ITU doesn't establish a trademark, it reserves the trademark for future use.

Once you've reserved your ITU trademark, you must use the mark within six months to three years of filing the ITU. Once you actually use the mark in commerce, the “use” of the trademark back-dates to your ITU filing. Under most circumstances, it pays to file for an ITU if you are sure you want to use a certain trademark.