Once you register a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), you must take care to protect your trademark rights. If you fail to use the trademark, or if you fail to prevent others from using your mark, you could lose your rights. USPTO does not police your mark, nor does it enforce your trademark rights. To protect your rights, you must do two things: (1) police your trademark, and (2) use your trademark.
The purpose of a trademark is to create and preserve something distinctive to your business. If you fail to prevent other businesses from using your trademark, or a similar mark, then your trademark rights can be diluted, or even canceled. To prevent that from happening, you need to implement a plan to monitor use of your marks and, if necessary, take action to enforce your rights. Here are some ways to police your trademark:
- Set up a Google Alert for any mention of your trademark.
- Search the USPTO’s online TESS database of federal trademark applications and registrations.
- Search for filings in Secretary of State offices, as well as domain name filings.
- Periodically search the internet for uses of your mark.
- Use a professional trademark watching service.
If you find someone using a mark similar to yours, consult a trademark attorney to determine what action, if any, you should take to protect your rights. Such action might include sending a cease-and-desist letter, filing an action with the USPTO, or filing a lawsuit in state or federal court.
You can also lose your trademark rights by failing to use your mark. You must actively use your trademark in order to maintain it. Five years after registering a trademark, the owner must prove to the USPTO that they continue to use the trademark on a regular basis. A trademark must be renewed every 10 years. If you fail to use your trademark for three consecutive years, the mark might be considered abandoned. Therefore, it’s important that you keep good records of how your mark is used.