The beginning of the year is a great time to review your business health. Just as you would review your balance sheet and other key metrics, don’t forget to check in on one of your business’s most important assets – your BRAND! Your trademark is the “face” of your company and it’s how your consumers recognize your products or services in the marketplace. We recommend doing an annual audit of your trademarks to identify any upcoming maintenance requirements, changes that may affect existing registrations, possible infringements, and also to identify new opportunities for growth.
This month, our FlatFee Trademark attorneys share 5 tips to help evaluate your trademark portfolio for 2024.
1. Review and Audit Your Existing Trademarks
A comprehensive audit of your trademarks helps to identify obsolete marks that are no longer in use or identify new marks for registration. Your audit should include all websites, social media, slogans, labels, packaging, marketing materials, and logos. This will provide your organization with a clear picture of your trademarks and help to guide your marketing strategies for the year. Your audit should also include countries where your brand is sold to ensure your business is (a) protected there, (b) compliant with that country’s trademark laws, and (c) that there are no infringement issues.
2. Renewal and Maintenance
It is important to keep track of your maintenance filing dates and deadlines. The first maintenance filing is due between the 5th and 6th year after registration, and your second filing will be between the 9th and 10th year after your registration date. Check the date on your trademark registration certificate to ensure timely filings. Failure to file on time will result in late filing fees or cancellation of your trademark, leaving your mark vulnerable for use by others.
Be aware of third-party scams calling or sending out maintenance notices threatening cancellation of your mark and requesting money. If you’re uncertain about the legitimacy of any emails or mailings you receive, don’t hesitate to contact us. As a courtesy, we notify our clients by email when your trademark is coming up for maintenance or renewal filings, so it’s important to keep your contact information and email addresses up to date.
If you’ve rebranded, or modified your logo after registration, it could pose a problem at the time of your maintenance filing when you are required to submit a specimen. In that case, we can assist you in filing a new application for your updated mark. Checking for these issues early will help to make your maintenance filing process much smoother.
3. Monitor for Trademark Infringement
Monitoring for possible trademark infringement is important to maintain your mark’s strength and authenticity. Infringement can be in the form of likelihood of confusion, i.e. another brand having a similar name or logo, or it could be an unauthorized use of your mark by another company. We recommend setting a Google alert for your brand names and conducting periodic checks of the web, social media, Amazon and other e-commerce sites. You may also check the USPTO website for new applications with similar names or logos to your brand. Our trademark law firm is here to assist you with trademark monitoring services. We can also assist you in assessing potential infringement issues and taking further legal action when warranted.
4. Expand Your Trademark Portfolio Strategically
A trademark audit provides you with a clear picture of your IP assets. This knowledge may provide you with insight on new areas of growth, emerging markets for your products, or possible licensing opportunities for your business. Having a strong trademark portfolio and a well-protected brand can open new partnerships and be a powerful negotiating tool. If you’re looking to expand your brand internationally, we can help. The trademark attorneys at FlatFee Trademark are experienced in international trademark registration. We work with local attorneys around the world to assist in protecting your trademark assets in foreign markets.
5. Stay Informed of the Trademark Legal Landscape
It’s essential to stay up to date on important changes in trademark law that could affect your trademark rights and/or registrations. Just last year, the USPTO changed the period of time for Office Action responses from six (6) months to three (3) months. There’s also been a stepped up review of likelihood of confusion and increased scrutiny of trademark specimens. If you haven’t already, consider subscribing to our client newsletter where we keep you up to date on relevant changes and trends in trademark law and useful trademark tips to keep your trademark portfolio healthy and robust.