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Trademark Monitoring

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Trademark Monitoring FAQs

What does an applicant need to do to protect the mark after it is registered?

Once properly registered, trademarks generally need to be renewed by filing a Declaration of Continued Use. The first Declaration of Continued Use is usually due between the 5th and 6th anniversary date of the filing. The next renewal usually falls between the ninth and tenth year. Thereafter renewals are generally every ten years. Trademark Engine provides notice of the applicable deadlines and allows filing of the necessary paperwork via its personalized portal with just a few clicks of the mouse or with some minor updated information.

At the five year mark, assuming continued use of the mark, we can also help file a “Declaration of Incontestability,” which provides additional protection under trademark law. This may prevent others from contesting the trademark on several common grounds, such as: (1) the mark is not inherently distinctive; (2) it is confusingly similar to a mark someone else began using first; or (3) the mark is simply functional as opposed to identifying the source of the goods or services.

What do I do if someone is infringing?

Often a trademark owner will send a cease and desist letter demanding that the infringing party stop using the mark. The infringement may not be on purpose and the infringing party may stop when notified that their conduct is in clear violation of another’s rights.

The infringing party may also ignore the demand or take the position that they are not infringing. At that point, you may consider a trademark infringement lawsuit. You should talk with an attorney if you believe a lawsuit might be the right choice for you.

Successful lawsuits have common characteristics and you should discuss with a lawyer whether any of these are present in your situation:

  • The plaintiff is the owner of a valid mark - which is ordinarily presumed if they have a federal trademark registration
  • The other side is using the mark without authority in connection with the sale of goods or services
  • The other side is using the mark in a manner that is likely to cause confusion to reasonable consumers
Is it possible to make changes to the mark after it is filed?

It is possible to amend an application, but the process and the associated fees generally depend on the timing of the changes. Changes before the trademark has been published in the Official Gazette can be made by logging into your Trademark Engine account and request that a change be made. Additional fees to Trademark Engine and filing fees to the USPTO may apply.

Changes once the trademark has been published in the Official Gazette generally require a Post-Publication Amendment, which Trademark Engine can assist with.

Depending on the scope of the amendment, an applicant may need to file a new application instead. For example, amendments that broaden the scope of a description or add international categories may require additional fees and may require a new application. Clerical errors, on the other hand, are generally easy to fix and typically won’t affect the applicant’s place in line or require a new application.

Is it possible to sell, license, or assign a trademark?

Yes, like any other business asset, a trademark can be sold, licensed or assigned. Validity requirements generally still apply, so someone usually needs to continue to use the mark in commerce and it is helpful to register assignments with the USPTO. If you enter into such an agreement, we can help with a transfer of the trademark with the PTO. Sometimes, individuals register the mark before a company is officially set up. Then, once the company is formed, the mark needs to be transferred into the company.

What is Trademark Infringement?

According to the USPTO, trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of a trademark or service mark on or in connection with goods and/or services in a manner that is likely to cause confusion, deception, or mistake about the source of the goods and/or services.

What factors go into determining whether the similarity of a mark might cause consumer confusion?

According to the USPTO,“the key factors considered in most cases are the degree of similarity between the marks at issue and whether the parties' goods and/or services are sufficiently related that consumers are likely to assume (mistakenly) that they come from a common source. Other factors that courts typically consider include how and where the parties' goods or services are advertised, marketed, and sold; the purchasing conditions; the range of prospective purchasers of the goods or services; whether there is any evidence of actual confusion caused by the allegedly infringing mark; the defendant's intent in adopting its mark; and the strength of the plaintiff's mark.” These are all fact intensive inquiries.

What is trademark dilution?

Trademark dilution is a second infringement theory alternative to consumer confusion. According to the USPTO, “a trademark owner may claim trademark ‘dilution,’ asserting that it owns a famous mark and the use of your mark diminishes the strength or value of the trademark owner's mark by ‘blurring’ the mark's distinctiveness or ‘tarnishing’ the mark's image by connecting it to something distasteful or objectionable-even if there is no likelihood of confusion.”

What is the purpose of the cease and desist letter?

A Cease and Desist Letter is sent to an alleged infringer to put them on notice of the alleged infringement and gives them a deadline to stop infringing. In many cases, an alleged infringer will voluntarily comply with the cease and desist letter and the parties often move on without any further action. If the cease and desist letter is ignored, it can be used in a lawsuit to show the alleged infringer was on notice of the infringement and yet continued in bad faith to willfully infringe. This may result in additional damages in a lawsuit.

A cease and desist order is not the same as a cease and desist order signed by a judge with the force of law. To get an order, a lawsuit has to be filed and the order must be obtained by a court.

What if I registered my mark, but someone else claims they were using it first?

To support a trademark infringement claim in court, a plaintiff must prove that it owns a valid mark, that it has priority (its rights in the mark(s) are "senior" to the alleged infringer. That means if someone was using a mark before the person who registered it with the USPTO, they may be able to keep using it in the same manner they were before the USPTO issued registration. This senior use may, however, may be limited to the use in its geographic area or without the ability to broaden the use of the mark to additional goods or services.

When a plaintiff owns a federal trademark registration on the Principal Register, there is a legal presumption of the validity and ownership of the mark as well as of the exclusive right to use the mark nationwide on or in connection with the goods or services listed in the registration. These presumptions may be rebutted in court proceedings.

The point is that just because someone else is using a similar mark, if they were using before the owner of USPTO registration, they may not be infringing.

What remedies are available for a trademark infringement suit?

If the trademark owner is able to prove infringement, available remedies may include the following:

  • a court order (injunction) that the defendant stop using the accused mark;
  • an order requiring the destruction or forfeiture of infringing articles;
  • monetary relief, including the defendant's profits, any damages sustained by the plaintiff, and the costs of the action; and
  • an order that the defendant, in certain cases, pay the plaintiffs' attorneys' fees.
  • Conversely, a court may find instead that (1) you are not infringing the trademark, (2) a defense bars the plaintiff's claim(s), or (3) other reasons exist why the trademark owner is not entitled to prevail. The risk to filing a suit is that sometimes courts will invalidate a trademark registration by ruling it is too generic and not worthy of protection notwithstanding the USPTO may have granted a registration.

To learn more about an efficient way to remove infringing material online, read more about our DMCA Takedown services.

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