Of the four types of intellectual property — patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets — trademarks are arguably the most important for startups and small businesses. A trademark, as defined by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, is “a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.” You come across countless trademarks each day; it’s difficult to drive on any major highway for more than a minute or two without seeing the signature Golden Arches of McDonald’s.
It’s difficult to build a recognizable brand without trademarks (or service marks). One of the smartest moves an entrepreneur can make for his or her startup is pursuing federal registration for the company’s trademarks. We applaud you if you have taken this step to secure your business’s intellectual property. However, the work doesn’t end as soon as your application for registration is approved.
Steps to Maintaining a Trademark Registration:
First Declaration of Use and/or Excusable Nonuse
One mistake plenty of business owners make after federally registering their trademarks is not using them in commerce. If you do not use your trademarks in connection with your company’s goods being sold, you might not be successful when you file the declaration of use and/or excusable nonuse. This is the first document you must file with the USPTO after your registration date; you must file it between five and six years after that date. When you file this document, you must also submit a sample of your goods being sold in connection with your trademarks.
First Full Trademark Renewal (9-10 Years After Registration Date)
Just a few years after your first declaration of use comes your first full trademark renewal. You must submit a declaration of use and/or excusable nonuse in addition to an application for renewal within 10 years after your trademark’s registration date. Once you pass this milestone, you must continue to file these two documents every 10 years.
Fortunately, there is a six-month grace period to file your first declaration of use if six years pass after your federal registration date. However, any submissions outside this window will likely result in cancellation of your trademark registration. The same goes for failure to renew — you will have to start over with a new application and lose the priority rights you originally gained.
Does Your Business Need Trademark Protections?
While it’s true that many small businesses benefit from federal trademark protection, it might not be necessary in your case. The best way to figure out if you should submit an application is to speak with an experienced business attorney who has a track record of effective brand protection. Trembly Law Firm has helped countless business owners and would be more than happy to help you. Contact the office today to set up a consultation.