Trademarks protect distinctive brand words, phrases, symbols or designs from unauthorized use by others. Trademark rights exist as soon as you start using your trademark in commerce and the rights become stronger with continued use. To obtain proof of your rights and maximum possible protection, you should register your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO.
You can file a trademark application with the USPTO either electronically or in paper form. Applications should include your own name and address and a depiction or drawing of the trademark requested. Once registered, there is a legal presumption of your ownership of the trademark; you may bring an action in a federal court to protect your interest. A trademark lasts for an initial period of 10 years from the date of registration, subject to the filing of either a Declaration of Continued Use or a Declaration of Excusable Non-use after five years.
Declaration of Continued Use
To maintain a federal trademark registration, you must file a maintenance document before the end of the sixth year after the date of registration. This document is known as a Declaration of Continued Use; it is a sworn statement that the mark is in use in commerce. The form should also include a list of the goods or services that use the trademark. If you don’t file a Declaration of Continued Use, the USPTO will cancel the trademark. If the Declaration is filed and accepted, the registration remains in force until the expiry of 10 years from the date of first registration.
Declaration of Excusable Non-Use
If, for some reason, your trademark is not in use, but you want to retain it, you must file a Declaration of Excusable Non-use between five and six years after the date of registration. The Declaration comprises a sworn statement that the non-use is temporary and is due to circumstances beyond your control. The Declaration should set out the steps that you are taking to remedy the situation. The USPTO has accepted reasons relating to illness, natural disasters and the sale of a business for non-use of a trademark.
After 10 years from the date of registration, you can file an application to renew your trademark with the USPTO. This document is known as a Declaration of Use and Application for Renewal. There is no limit on the number of times that you can renew your trademark.