By registering a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) or your state’s Secretary of State , you’ve taken the first step in protecting your brand and building your business’s goodwill. Congratulations! If you haven’t registered a trademark yet, please read Virgo Law ’s® article about Building and Protecting Your Business’s Brand . Registering your trademark is an important first step to protect your exclusive rights to the mark, but there are several equally important steps to take after registration to maintain those rights
Display the Correct Registered Trademark Symbol Next to Your Trademark
You should always display the correct registered trademark symbol everywhere that you use your trademark, including your website, physical marketing material, and presentations.
- If you registered your trademark with the USPTO, you should display the “®” symbol next to your trademark.
- If you registered your trademark with your state’s Secretary of State, you should display the “™” symbol next to your trademark.
Displaying the correct registered trademark symbol next to your trademark lets others know that you own your trademark, proves to the federal and state government that you are protecting your trademark, and generally helps reinforce the legal protection of your trademark.
Maintain Proper Usage
Always use your trademark exactly how you registered it. Slight variations in style or font may be alright, but it’s usually not worth the risk.
- Don’t change how your business’ name is spelled if you registered a standard character trademark for your business.
- Don’t make major design changes to your registered logo trademark. Substantially changing your trademark could weaken your trademark’s distinctiveness and cause consumer confusion, which could ultimately cause you to lose your exclusive right to use your mark.
Only use your mark for the products and services you registered it for. If you register a trademark to represent a specific product or service, using that trademark for a separate unrelated product or service will also weaken your mark’s distinctiveness.
- For example, if you registered a logo for your lawn care service, you could lose the exclusive right to the mark if you use that same logo for the coffee shop you just opened.
If you’d like to make changes to your registered trademark, consult with a trademark attorney to determine how you can change your mark and maintain your trademark rights.
Police Your Trademark
Even though you’ve successfully established your exclusive right to use your trademark, it’s still your job to continue protecting your trademark. The federal and state governments will not protect your trademark for you. If too many unauthorized users use your trademark, you could lose your exclusive right to your trademark.
- You should regularly monitor the market by searching for your trademark using your preferred search engine for any unauthorized use or infringement of your trademark. As your brand grows, you may also consider investing in third-party trademark policing services to monitor your trademark.
- If you discover an infringement, immediately consult with your trademark attorney to understand your options and take the appropriate legal steps to address the infringement.
Renew and Update Your Trademark
You must periodically renew your trademark with the appropriate government entity. For example, you have to file a “Declaration of Use” showing that you are still using your trademark with the USPTO between the fifth and sixth year after your federal trademark is to maintain your exclusive rights to your trademark.
Be aware of renewal deadlines and submit the necessary paperwork and fees on time. The appropriate government entity should provide notice to you and your attorney when any maintenance filings are due. Additionally, keep your trademark registration up to date with any changes to your business name, address, or ownership. Check in with your trademark attorney every now and then to make sure you aren’t missing anything important!
Keep Detailed Records and Documentation
While organizing documents for your business may not be very exciting, it could save you from a great hassle down the road. So, you should maintain proper records of your trademark registration certificates, correspondences, and any evidence of infringement. These records can be valuable in proving your ownership and defending your rights if there is a dispute.
- Virgo Law recommends creating a separate file on your computer to store important documents and correspondences about your trademark.
Watch Out for Scams
Scammers—in the form of private companies—may try to trick you into paying a fee or for a service that is not required by the USPTO, so keep an eye out! Generally, you should be cautious with anyone except the USPTO that reaches out to you about your trademark.
- Check out the USPTO’s article on common scams to watch out for
Reach out to your trademark attorney if you have any questions about suspicious emails or messages regarding your trademarks.
A Virgo Law ® attorney would love to speak with you about protecting your brand and trademarks! Complete our intake form to begin working with an attorney.