As soon as you start using your trademark whether you’ve applied for federal registration or not, you should protect it. If your trademark is federally registered, you can do the following to protect your name:
- Use the ® symbol. You don’t have to use it, but it does provide notice to potential infringers and improves your chances of collecting damages and lost profits in court.
- File Section 8 and 15 Declarations. Between the fifth and sixth year following federal registration you should file these declarations to tell the USPTO that your mark is still in use and that your registration should continue in force. Your mark will then be incontestable which means it makes it more difficult for someone to challenge your mark.
- File Section 8 Declaration and Section 9 Renewal. Within six months after the tenth anniversary of your registration, file these documents to renew your registration.
- Police your trademark. If you don’t assert your rights, you might inadvertently abandon them. Policing means conducting periodic trademark searches or even hiring third parties to police your mark. If you discover a potential infringer, you may want to take action to protect your rights. Sometimes you’re on the other end and someone will make a claim against you that you’re infringing their rights.
In either case you’ll want to take a rational approach that doesn’t escalate the matter beyond a reasonable resolution of the matter. The resolution often depends on who used the name first, who federally registered the name first, whether the goods or services are similar, and whether there is customer confusion.