How to Maintain a Trademark
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Maintaining your federally registered trademark comes with several requirements. The mark needs to be continuously used, renewal documents and fees need to be submitted, and infringement needs to be addressed. Stick with us to learn more about what it takes to keep your mark alive and strong.
In this article, we'll cover:
What Is Trademark Maintenance?
Trademark maintenance is the process through which a trademark remains valid, protected, and distinct. When it comes to trademarks that are federally registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), maintenance takes on the added piece of upholding nationwide protection.
In the grand scheme of your mark, maintenance is just as important as choosing a strong trademark in the first place, or adding protection through registration. Why? Because if you don’t maintain your trademark, it will eventually lose its rights.
Want help registering your trademark or keeping up with renewal? Learn about our Trademark Service.
Important Steps to Take
Successfully maintaining your trademark registration means following some essential steps. Below, we go over what needs to happen for your mark to retain its rights.
To maintain trademark rights, your mark needs to be continuously used in commerce. This means the trademark needs to keep showing up alongside its related goods/services in the “regular course of trade.” To let others know your trademark is registered, use the ® symbol in connection with your mark.
If you stop using a registered trademark, you will eventually lose the federal protections you once had. A registered trademark is considered abandoned after 3 consecutive years of nonuse, with no intention by the owner to restart use. Once this occurs, the USPTO may cancel your trademark registration.
Maintaining trademark registration means submitting the required renewal documents and payments via your MyUSPTO account. When filing, ensure your information is up to date and accurate. As recommended by the USPTO, file early when possible. Each filing can be submitted a year ahead of its official due date.
USPTO trademark maintenance filings include:
- Section 8 Declaration of Use and/or Excusable Nonuse
This is your first required maintenance document, due by the 6-year anniversary of your mark’s registration. It costs $225 per class.
- Section 15 Declaration of Incontestability
This maintenance document is optional. It asserts that your trademark is now incontestable, which makes it harder for others to challenge your mark.
For those who choose to file Section 15, it is generally due at the same time as Section 8—by the 6-year registration anniversary. It costs $200 per class. Section 15 can also be submitted in a combined filing with Section 8. The combined filing costs $425 per class.
- Combined Sections 8 & 9 Declaration of Use and/or Excusable Nonuse/Application of Renewal
This combined filing is due on a 10-year rotation for the life of your registered trademark. Its first due date is your mark’s 10-year registration anniversary. The Combined Section 8 & 9 filing costs $525 per class.
Your mark’s ability to act as a distinct identifier of your offerings is lowered when others misuse or infringe on the mark. As a result, protecting against trademark infringement is a core component of keeping your rights strong. If you allow infringement to proceed without taking action, it can weaken your rights in the mark, especially if it happens repeatedly.
To stay on top of whether infringement is occurring, it’s a good idea to monitor your trademark to see how it’s being used elsewhere in the marketplace.
If your mark becomes well known to the point that it’s a household name, you’ll want to pay even closer attention. While your mark reaching dictionary status can be great from a marketing perspective, it can spell trouble from a trademark perspective. If consumers start using your trademark as a common noun for an item (like they did with “thermos” and “aspirin”), your registration will be at risk.
How Much Does it Cost to Maintain a Trademark?
There is not an annual fee to maintain a registered trademark, but there are periodic fees.
- By year 6 following registration, you’ll owe $225 per class with your renewal filing.
- At year 10, you’ll owe $525 per class, which will be due again every 10 years for as long as you wish to maintain registration.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can trademarks be maintained forever?
Yes! Registered trademarks have the gift of eternal life as long as they remain distinct, in use, and properly renewed.
Do you lose a trademark if you don’t use it?
Eventually, yes. If a trademark is unused by its original owner for long enough, it will be available for others to use. Registered trademarks abandon after 3 years of nonuse if the owner doesn’t plan on restarting use.
If you’re interested in claiming a no-longer-in-use trademark, be wary—just because a trademark has left it’s national protections behind doesn’t necessarily mean it’s been abandoned entirely. A state trademark or unregistered common law trademark can still be in play even if federal registration is forgone.
What is trademark abandonment?
There are a couple ways for a trademark to be abandoned. The most common is nonuse. Another way for a trademark to be abandoned is if it becomes generic. When a trademark that was once distinct turns into an everyday word for the offering it promotes, the USPTO may cancel the registration.