As we ring in 2023, sip some champagne and make a resolution to check in on your trademark portfolio more often. It misses you!
Here are a few productive questions to ask:
- Do your registrations cover your reality? You may have launched new brands or drastically redesigned your logo since you last interacted with the USPTO. Or perhaps your business has expanded or evolved, and the scope of your registrations ignores some now-crucial products or services. Maybe your filings are all in the US, but the EU and Brazil have become major markets for you. If any of this sounds like you, it’s time to plug some holes.
- Are you prepared to meet deadlines? Make sure the right people know what’s due when, and whom to contact. If you acquired a trademark as part of a business transaction, let your attorney and the USPTO know that you’re the owner now. If the employee responsible for trademarks retired three years ago, have a new contact get in touch with your attorney so reminders don’t get lost in bounce-backs or an unmonitored inbox.
- What’s in the pipeline? If a new product line is coming soon, or you’re contemplating a rebrand, loop in your trademark attorney sooner rather than later. We can help you vet your options when it’s still early enough to change course easily, and lock in an early “priority” date by filing an intent-to-use application. Similarly, if you expect to launch in new markets, lay the groundwork with a trademark application. In most places outside the US, the first to file typically owns a trademark, so it is even more crucial to get formal protection in place in a timely manner.
- Are you lugging around a bunch of deadwood? If a former employee was overzealous, or some brands have been sunset, you may have a stack of applications and registrations in the US or around the world that you just don’t need. Get a jump on spring cleaning by reviewing your portfolio and letting your trademark attorney know what to jettison, rather than be plagued by reminders of deadlines for marks that the company barely recalls.
- Are you monitoring your trademarks in their natural habitat? Your trademarks are much more than words or images on a registration certificate; the most important part of their existence is out in the world, where they represent you. If it’s been a while since you discussed best practices for use with your trademark attorney, or you’ve hired a slew of new marketing folks, check in on how your trademarks appear on your website and your products. Are your licensees and partners using them appropriately? Branding guidelines – high-res logos, company-approved color schemes, etc. – should include best practices from a trademark law perspective, to make sure you’re not inadvertently harming your marks. Your trademark attorney can help you flesh out those guidelines and double-check your real world use. (Bonus tip: Discuss with your attorney how to monitor other people’s trademarks. If another company in your space picks a trademark that’s too similar to yours, or a straight-up copycat starts using exactly your mark, you’ll want to know about that as soon as possible so you can take appropriate action.)
Trademarks aren’t always top of mind, but they’re valuable assets – in 2023 and into the future for as long as you properly tend to them. So spend a little time and help your trademarks kick off the New Year in style.
And, in the meantime, I’ll resolve to write blog posts more regularly. Stay tuned!