In the first half of 2015, more than 237,940 trademark applications were filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The USPTO has already seen a 9.6 percent increase in applications this year. Many of the applicants are entrepreneurs and small-business owners seeking to protect their intellectual property rights.
If you are considering registering a trademark or have already done so, there are a few key things you must do after the registration process is complete:
1. Use the ® symbol.
Although you aren’t legally required to do so, it is advisable to place the ® symbol on all the goods and services registered in conjunction with your mark. The ® symbol puts the public on notice that you have registered your trademark with the USPTO and that you have nationwide rights to it.
Keep in mind that you may only use the mark while the registration is alive -- you may not continue to use it if you don’t maintain the registration or it expires.
2. Register your mark with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The CBP, a bureau of the Department of Homeland Security, maintains a trademark recording system for marks registered with the USPTO. The CBP can prevent the importation of goods that infringe registered trademarks. The bureau examines cargo entering the country to ensure that the importation does not infringe on someone else’s intellectual property rights.
All ports have access to this database and when port personnel see or suspect an importation that they suspect may be an infringement, they can stop it. Last year, there were 23,140 intellectual property right seizures with a retail value of $1.2 billion. The top seized commodities included apparel, accessories, consumer electronics and pharmaceuticals.
There is a fee of $190 to register each trademark with CBP. The price is well worth it. Once your mark is registered with CBP, it remains in its database for 20 years. For more information, visit www.cbp.gov.
3. Sign up for maintenance document reminders.
Unlike copyrights, trademarks can last indefinitely as long as you file all your maintenance documents in a timely manner. The USPTO requires that you file a “Declaration of Use Under §8” between the fifth and sixth year following registration. You are also required to file a “Declaration of Use and Application for Renewal Under §8 and §9” between the ninth and 10th year after registration, and every 10 years thereafter.
These declarations are just simple documents keeping the USPTO apprised of any changes to your trademark. If these maintenance documents are not timely filed, your trademark registration will be canceled and cannot be revived or reinstated.
Up until this year, the USPTO did not send trademark owners reminders as to when these documents were due. However, starting this year, the USPTO now sends courtesy email reminders of filing deadlines. At times it’s difficult to keep up with the dates of when these documents are due, so be sure to sign up to receive these email reminders.
Registration owners should use the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) change of correspondence address forms to add and verify email information to ensure receipt of the reminders. For more information, visit www.uspto.gov.