For most businesses, your intellectual property is your lifeblood. It is your right to be the sole benefactor of your innovations and hard work. Your patents, trademarks, and copyrights are the things that make your company unique, and they are meant to act as a shield against those who would seek to leverage your intellectual property for their own gain.
However, in the case of trademarks in particular, the execution of that protective shield can be exceptionally complex. Simply owning the legal right to a trademark is not enough to prevent infringement. In practice, trademark protection requires action on the part of the trademark holder to truly provide security. For example, if you fail to utilize a trademark for 3 or more years, the law will oftentimes consider this to be an abandonment of your intellectual property rights to that trademark.
Additionally, intellectual property law also recognizes an important concept known as acquiescence, which requires that you take prompt legal action when you discover that someone has infringed upon your trademark rights.
As Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
The concept of acquiescence means that, if you knowingly allow your trademark rights to be infringed by another entity without taking action for a significant period of time, you have legally acquiesced to that entity’s right to use and profit from your trademark.
Acquiescence is considered by intellectual property law to represent active consent to use the trademark if you, as the trademark owner, actively asserted that you would not take legal action, took an inexcusable amount of time to assert your right or claim, and the cessation of use of the trademark by the defendant would cause them undue prejudice.
Generally speaking, if you clearly tolerated the use of your trademark by another entity, they will likely be able to utilize acquiescence as a defense to minimize or eliminate their liability if you claim infringement, meaning you will be unable to collect damages or prevent their use of your trademark.
Thus, it is vital that you take swift action if you ever suspect or discover the theft or illicit use of your intellectual property. Willful inaction can result in the loss of your right to take action to protect your rights.
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