Protect Your Brand, #2: Policing Your Trademarks

Receiving that beautifully sealed trademark registration is not the last step in protecting your brand; it is one of the first. You now have a relatively solid ground from which to protect your mark, but it does not mean you will get to sit back and let your castle to all the protecting – you will have to keep your castle wells well maintained and fight off attackers when they come.

A U.S. trademark registration gives one a nationwide right to use their registered mark, and legally prohibits others from using a confusingly similar mark in the States. However, trademark registrants are responsible for policing their registration, not the USPTO or any other government agency.

As a trademark owner, you will want to patrol both the digital world, and the real world, for potentially infringing use of your mark. You do a great service to your brand by regularly making searches of your trademark using the major search engines. Remember to also check for typical misspellings of your trademark as well. If you find anything that concerns you, you should address the problem as soon as possible. In the real world, it is a good idea to subscribe to the major publications in your industry, and to occasionally spend some time looking through the advertisement sections in those publications. At the very least, this keeps you updated on your competition, and you will be able to address trademark problems as they rise.

Of course, these are only two of many do-it-yourself techniques for policing your trademarks. This is an important part of protecting your brand, because if you do not expend effort to protect your brand, the law will see less of a need to protect your brand as well. Avoid the situation where you are suing an unfriendly competitor for clearly stealing your business, and then showing up in court empty-handed when your competitor’s lawyer asks what you have done to enforce your trademark rights (except for filing a lawsuit after two years of infringing use). To find out about a full range of solutions for monitoring your trademarks, contact a lawyer experienced in trademark law and brand management.

As a trademark owner, you have to maintain your rights by regularly checking for unauthorized use of your mark. If you are aware of possible infringement, you have an obligation to address it, sooner rather than later. “Sleeping on your rights” can lead to losing your rights.

– ck

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