Just because you have taken the steps to register your trademark, it doesn’t mean that your trademark remains registered into the future. It's vital to keep to keep an eye on it.
Non-Use of Your Trademark
Trademarks are very much a case of use it or lose it. The Trade Mark Registry has the power to revoke your trademark if you haven’t actively used it for a period of 5 years. This period runs from the date of registration and then in subsequent 5 year periods. Therefore, if your trademark is registered on 1st September 2015, but you don’t use it until 2nd September 2020, you’d no longer have a registered trademark.
If your trademark is revoked for non-use, you will have to undertake the application process once more, and ensure that your trademark complies with all the necessary legal requirements.
Has Your Trademark Become Generic?
Has your trademark become a common way of describing something in the trade? If so, you run the risk of losing registered trademark status. One of the key elements of a trademark is that it distinguishes the product from others. So if the term has become generic, it can’t be a unique or distinguished mark any longer. For example, Biro, Launderette or Refrigerator have now lost their right to be trademarks.
There are ways to protect your trademark from becoming generic:
- Using your trademark as an adjective, e.g. ‘Gordons Gin and Tonic’
- Distinguish the trademark from the surrounding writing, for example, putting the trademark in bold, capitals, italics or in a different colour to any blurb or slogan you may have, or
- Acknowledge the trademark as a trademark with use of the ®. Please note that this can only be used if your mark is registered. If it isn’t and you apply the ® you may face criminal prosecution.
Has Your Trademark Become Misleading?
Be aware that your trademark could become misleading because of the way you are using it or how you are allowing it to be used.
It’s key for a trademark owner to have a clause in any licence granting the use of their trademark to a third party, which expressly states the way in which the mark is to be used and other quality control provisions. However, it isn’t good enough to just have the provision, you have to ensure, as the owner, that the trademark’s use is proper and not misleading.
Since trademarks are very much a case of use, they need constant monitoring by their owners to ensure they aren’t being abused, forgotten or becoming integrated into the general public’s vocabulary.
As the trademark’s owner, the onus is on you to ensure the trademark is used, and if it’s commercially exploited, that the third party using it, isn’t abusing it.