Trademarks are a vital element in the world of business, acting as the protective shield for the identity of specific goods or services. They are key in helping consumers quickly identify a particular business as the source of a product and fostering customer loyalty.
Once a trademark is registered, it acquires a protective layer against misuse by others and adopts characteristics akin to other property types. But how long does a trademark last? The terms of a trademark’s longevity can vary depending on the laws of the country where it was registered, but generally, it is around ten years.
Duration of Trademarks in the United States
In the United States, the lifespan of a federal trademark has the potential to be infinite, provided it is renewed every ten years. If the mark continues to be used between the 5th and 6th year post its registration, the registration can be renewed.
To accomplish this, the proprietor must submit the maintenance documents mandated by the United States Patent Trademark Office (USPTO) within the appropriate time frames. Further, the legal requirements for the trademark to be renewed must be met by the owner.
Legal Prerequisites for Renewing a Trademark Registration
The files required for maintenance encompass the following elements:
A Declaration of Use
Section 8 Affidavit, also commonly referred to as a “Continued Use” affidavit, is an important document in the realm of trademark law. Its purpose is to confirm that the owner of a trademark has continued using the mark in the same manner as it was initially issued. This affidavit plays a crucial role in the validity and protection of a trademark.
Trademark owners are required to file a Section 8 Affidavit with the United States Patent and Office (USPTO) to demonstrate that their mark is still in use. This is a mandatory requirement under the Lanham Act, which governs trademark law in the United States.
A Declaration of Incontestability
Often referred to as a Section 15 Affidavit, this declaration asserts that your trademark cannot be challenged. Although it’s not mandatory, it does provide additional protection against future disputes or infringement.
An Application for Renewal
Also known as Section 9 Affidavit, this needs to be filed between the 9th and 10th year from your trademark registration date. This confirms your continued usage of the mark in the manner it was initially issued and grants ten additional years to your initial registration.
Lapsed Trademark Renewal
Should the renewal documents fail to be filed within the acceptable time frame, your trademark can be nullified by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. To avoid this, maintenance documents need to be filed when required by law to maintain an active registration.
If the registration is nullified, it cannot be reinstated, and a new application for registration will be necessary. The USPTO does offer a 6-month grace period for the renewal of the registration, although this incurs an additional fee.
Even if your trademark is nullified or it expires, it may still be protected under common law, provided it continues to be used for the same purpose it was originally intended. While federal registration offers additional benefits and protection, it does not create new rights.
Steps to Register and Renew a Trademark
- File the trademark registration.
- This can be accomplished using the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS). A paper form is also available by calling 800-786-9199.
- The following documents should be included with your application:
- A Statement of Use and a list of previous examples of use
- Relevant Fees
- A trademark drawing
- A trademark specimen
- File a Declaration of Use
- This needs to be done between the 5th and 6th anniversary of the date of your initial trademark registration. You can also use the Trademark Electronic Application System to file this document.
- File an Application for Renewal
- This needs to be done between the 9th and 10th year from the date of your initial trademark registration and every ten years thereafter as long as you wish to have the trademark registered under your name.
Continued trademark protection is ensured by following these steps, provided the trademark is used as it was originally registered and issued and the duties of the trademark owner are fulfilled.
Does trademark registration offer international protection?
No. State and Federal registration provides protection within the geopolitical boundaries of the state and country, respectively. If you desire trademark protection in other countries, you have two choices: You can submit a trademark registration in each country where you want the mark to be protected, or you can file a Madrid Protocol application, European Union, or other regional trademarks which confer protection within each country that is a member of these groups.
If you are still uncertain about how to proceed with your trademark registration and renewal, it is advisable to contact a trademark attorney to guide and advise you through the whole process.
The Lifespan of a Trademark
Trademarks can potentially last forever, provided they are used in commerce and are timely renewed every ten years. Trademarks do not have a predetermined expiry date.
What Is A Trademark?
Trademarks are words, phrases, and logos that businesses use to identify their products and services. Trademark protection provides the owner with the exclusive right to use a particular mark in connection with the sale of goods or services.
The primary purpose of trademarks is to prevent confusion in the marketplace about who is selling what product or service.
How Long Do Trademarks Last?
Trademarks do not have expiration dates. They can last forever as long as they are used and renewed on time. A federal trademark lasts ten years from the date of registration, with a potentially unlimited number of 10-year renewal terms. Therefore, every ten years, the owner of a federal trademark registration must renew it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Trademarks last as long as they are used in commerce to brand products or services. They do not expire after a set period of time, unlike patents and copyrights. So, any trademark can last as long as it is used to represent a brand.
Renewing Registered Trademarks
Registered trademarks have initial terms of 10 years. Therefore, a registered trademark lasts for 10 years from the date of registration. However, a registered trademark can also be renewed for unlimited successive 10-year terms as long as the owner meets the legal requirements for renewal and files all necessary documents on time.
Maintaining Your Trademark
On the tenth anniversary of registration, the owner has to provide actual proof that the trademark is in use. In addition to the declaration, like the trademark section 8 declaration, the owner must provide photographic evidence of a product using the trademark available for sale. As part of the trademark renewal process, every ten years thereafter, the owner will need to similarly provide proof of usage and a declaration–unless the trademark is to go abandoned.
Understanding trademark maintenance requires understanding what a trademark is. If you own a trademark, then you do not own a logo or a word, or a brand. You own the right to exclude others from using that trademark on goods or services.
The trademark is how you tell your customers that your products come from you. The USPTO has a direct interest in protecting your ability to enforce those rights.
To keep those rights enforceable, however, you have to keep using them. You have to make products, sell them, and include your trademark on them. If you fail to do any of those, then you no longer have a trademark to protect. If you fail to do them long enough, you will lose your rights to use the trademark.
To avoid losing those rights, mark the fifth and every 10-year anniversary on your calendar. Make sure you can provide a section 8 declaration and that you have proof of usage of your trademark. Failing to do so can cause you to lose out on the trademark you sought to protect.