Filing for a trademark is one of the best ways your company can secure its intellectual property.
One of the most unique aspects of trademarks is their longevity. In this regard, trademarks do better than other kinds of IP protections:
- While a U.S. utility patent protects one’s invention from others, it only lasts 20 years.
- Copyright for things like books, music, etc., created after January 1, 1978 lasts the life of the author plus 70 years.
- Copyright for works “made for hire,” such as work created by a business for a customer, the copyright lasts for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first.
But a trademark has no expiration date. When you think about brands like Coca-Cola, Heinz, and John Deere, they have been in business for over a century. They still have their trademarks and can protect their name and the names of their products from others who may wish to use them. Trademarks live as long as consumers continue to recognize a trademark as distinguishing the goods of one provider from those of others.
- The first trademark legislation was passed in England in 1266.
- The oldest U.S. registered trademark still in use is trademark reg. no 11210, depicting Samson wrestling a lion, which was registered on May 27, 1884 by the J.P. Tolman Company (now Samson Rope Technologies, Inc.), a rope-making company.
- The oldest continuously used trademark on record is Stella Artois – the company claims continuous use of its mark since 1366.
However, the fact that a U.S. trademark can last forever does not mean that businesses don’t have to do things to maintain it. In the U.S., a federal trademark has to be renewed every 10 years. The rule determining renewal is that a trademark is still being used in the 5th and 6ths year after registration. For the renewals, the trademark owner has to file the maintenance documents required by the United States Patent Trademark Office (USPTO).
If this renewal is not filed in a timely fashion (there’s a 6 month grace period, but it does require paying additional fees), the trademark cannot be reinstated — the owner has to apply for it as if he or she is applying for the trademark for the first time.
Even if a trademark expires and is not renewed, it can still be under common law protection, if you can show that you have continued using it for the same purposes of its original intent. But federal trademarks offer additional protections to your intellectual property, and it is best to always make sure all trademarks are renewed with the USPTO.
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