With the New Year, many people reflect on the past and resolve to take steps in both their personal and business lives. As you focus on your business resolutions, examine your trademark use to ensure you are sufficiently protecting your brands. A trademark audit is an invaluable annual step for both for-profit and nonprofit companies. Some things to consider (keep in mind this is just a sampling):
Do you have plans to use a new name, logo, or tagline? If so, make sure it is available for use (meaning it does not infringe another trademark owner’s rights) and is a viable trademark. Also consider registering it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Are your existing trademarks sufficiently protected? If your marks are not registered with the USPTO, consider federal registration. If you have federal registrations, check to see whether your use of each mark is the same as in the registration. It is not uncommon for a company to change its use of a mark over time, but make sure your registration applies to all your uses of each mark.
Do you use your trademarks in other countries? If so, consider trademark registration in each country. In many countries you must be the first to file a trademark application to have trademark rights – it does not matter if you are the first one to use the mark there.
Are you currently using all of your trademarks? Your trademark rights can be jeopardized if you do not use a trademark for some time.
Has the owner of the trademark changed? Ownership changes should be documented by recording them with the USPTO.
Do you have trademark licensing agreements? If so, review those agreements to make sure they are up to date, and take the necessary quality control steps to maintain your trademark rights.