Trademarks that are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) generally last for as long as you use the trademark “in commerce.”
This means you can maintain rights over your trademark for as long as you use the trademark in your business, provided you renew your ownership with the USPTO every 5 to 10 years.
Specifically, there are two (or three) general maintenance-related forms that you’ll have to submit to the USPTO either 5 or 10 years after the date of your original registration:
- Combined Declaration of Use + Declaration of Incontestability — You can file a combined Declaration of Use and Incontestability with the USPTO five years after the registration of your mark on the principle register. This combined form basically states that (1) you are using your trademark in commerce exactly as you said you would on your original application, and (2) you would like to file to make your trademark incontestable, thus strengthening your protections over the mark. The Declaration of Use is a required form that you must submit to the USPTO to maintain your trademark registration. The Declaration of Incontestability is optional, but highly recommended for qualifying trademarks.
- Application for Renewal — You should file your application for renewal between the 9th and 10th year of your trademark registration date. This application confirms that you are still using the mark as it was originally issued, and that you’d like to renew your mark for another 10 years of protections. Note that you must file this application every 10 years in order to maintain your trademark protections.
If you fail to file either of these documents, the USPTO can cancel your trademark, meaning that you’ll lose all of the benefits gained by trademark registration at the federal level.
Finally, remember that there’s more to trademark maintenance than just filing renewal forms with the USPTO.
You’ll also have to protect your mark from infringing brands that are encroaching on your trademark protections.
Failing to do so could also result in the USPTO canceling your trademark, as failing to vigilantly protect your mark can be seen by the USPTO as equivalent to the surrender of your unique, exclusive claim to the mark itself.
So, to summarize:
- Provided you renew them at the appropriate intervals (5 years after registration, 10 years after registration, 20 years after registration, etc.) trademarks can last for as long as you decide to use the mark in commerce.
- The most important time frame occurs roughly 5 years after you originally registered your mark. This is when you’ll file your first renewal documents, as well as when you’ll declare your claim of incontestability.
- Trademark maintenance is more than just renewing your mark. You’ll also have to protect your mark from infringing brands that challenge your exclusive claim to the mark.
If you have any questions about trademark law or IP law in general, please feel free to call our office at (804) 477-1720 to speak with an attorney today.