How Long Is a Trademark Valid?

By Holly Cameron

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.

Registration

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.

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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.

Renewal

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.

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Expiration of Trademark Registration & Abandonment
 

References

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Can I Trademark Before I Sell the Product?

Since the federal trademark registration process takes several months, it makes sense to apply for trademark registration as soon as you design your mark while in the initial stages of product development. Your company can file a federal trademark registration application before you sell any products. You can also potentially secure common law trademark rights in your name, logo or slogan through actual use in the marketplace, such as pre-sale marketing. Under common law, a company automatically secures trademark rights once the original mark is used in association with its goods or services offered in the marketplace.

What Do I Do if My Patent Lapses?

Patents provide inventors with exclusive rights to make, use or sell their inventions or processes. Patent rights originated in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution and aim to promote scientific progress by granting rights to inventors for a period of time. The Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, administers patents in the United States. Most patents continue for up to 20 years but will lapse if regular maintenance payments are not paid. If your patent lapses, you have a limited period of time to petition for its revival.

Is There a Time Limit on a Trademark or Copyright?

The United States Patent and Trademark Office handles trademark applications, while copyright applications should be submitted to the United States Copyright Office. Trademark protection can continue indefinitely, as long as registration is renewed in accordance with the guidelines set forth in federal law. However, copyright protection has a limited duration.

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