My Trademark is Registered – Now What?
Trademark owners often feel a justifiable sense of pride and satisfaction when they receive their trademark’s Certificate of Registration in the mail from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Although it is tempting to view getting that certificate as the end of a long and sometimes bumpy road, the fact is that registering a mark is only the first step in protecting and building the value of a brand.
Trademark owners have a duty to “police” their marks to prevent consumer confusion. “Policing” means actively searching for potential infringers and, if an infringer is discovered, enforcing your trademark rights against them in a timely manner.
Failing to take action against an infringer promptly could result in actually losing the ability to bring an infringement lawsuit in the future. In addition, third-party use of a mark highly similar to your mark makes your mark less valuable as an indicator of the exclusive source of your goods and services. Further, if someone using a similar mark is selling inferior goods or has poor customer service, your own business reputation may suffer.
Fortunately, monitoring and safeguarding your company’s trademark assets need not be the time vampire it sounds like. Here are a few important steps you can take to help you find infringing marks and take swift action.
- Hire a professional trademark watch service that will watch your trademark each week against newly filed USPTO trademark applications and notify you of potentially conflicting marks. Trademark watch services can also be used to monitor domain names and online usage. These services are offered by a number of reputable companies for an annual fee. The fee will depend on how many sources you want the watch service to monitor and whether or not you want the services to extend to trademark filings outside the U.S. Please contact us for further details on selecting and setting up this type of service.
- Do an internet search of your mark on a regular basis using at least three different popular search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. Also, don’t forget to check YouTube.
- Set up Google Alerts so that Google will send you an e-mail each time your mark (or a highly similar mark) is used in news stories, blog posts and on web sites. You can set up a free account at www.google.com/alerts.
- If your periodic search engine search reveals unauthorized use of your mark in the text of a Google ad, you can file an AdWords Trademark Complaint with Google. Although Google cannot be an arbiter in resolving your dispute with an advertiser, it will investigate and may enforce certain restrictions on the use of your trademark in AdWords text ads. Bear in mind, however, that the Google will not investigate or restrict use of trademarks in keywords. The restrictions only apply to use of your mark in text ads.
- Monitor mobile app stores like iTunes and Google Play. Infringing apps diminish the value of your brand and may even be used to gather your customer’s information personal and financial information.
Obtaining a Federal Trademark registration is certainly one of the most important ways that a business can safeguard its brand. However, trademark protection is not just about getting your mark registered; it should be an ongoing endeavor for the life of the mark. Putting in place a robust trademark protection program using the tips and tools outlined above will put your business in a stronger position to stop infringers and preserve the value of your trademark assets.