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Monitor Your Trademarks

One responsibility trademark owners neglect often is to monitor trademarks.  This is probably due to a lack of understanding about the trademark application and registration process.

During (and, hopefully, before) the trademark application process, a trademark is

  • Reviewed for similar marks in similar goods and services;
  • Reviewed for a specific, coherent goods/services description; and
  • Offered up to public review by third parties.

During that public review, any third party that believes it will be harmed by a new trademark application has the chance to challenge and oppose that new application.

That chance to challenge and oppose a new application is an enforcement of trademark rights of the trademark owner.  Searching the Internet and the USPTO record for uses of a trademark and challenging those uses and USPTO application is an enforcement of trademark rights.

Unauthorized use of your mark, also known as infringement, diminishes the distinctiveness of a trademark and, correspondingly, reduces your rights in your trademark by diluting it in the marketplace for relevant consumers.  In short, the more trademarks there are out there that look like your mark, the less likely your trademark will be viewed by consumers as an identifier of the source your goods or services.

If your trademarks are worth filing, then they are also worth monitoring and enforcing, else that filing is worthless.  Like a right and left shoe, both are needed.  One risk is that a registered trademark becomes generic and it is difficult to return a mark from “genericization.”  (Xerox was able to do this, but it needed a massive advertising campaign.)

The moral is to monitor trademarks and enforce your rights (be it through oppositions, cease-and-desist letters or lawsuits) before those trademark rights and values fall to zero.