Trademarks help businesses maintain a distinct brand identity. Some companies file for a trademark on a logo or slogan and then never use them. Other times, the iconography is too similar to other existing trademarks.
In these scenarios, the United States Patent and Trademarks Office (USPTO) may deem a trademark invalid and revoke it. We’ll help you navigate the reasons why the USPTO invalidates trademarks and how to avoid the issue.
Trademarks are the jurisdiction of the USPTO, and they regularly hear arguments for why they should approve new trademarks for a business. On the opposite side of the spectrum, they also listen when a business wishes to invalidate another company’s intellectual property.
Invalidation erases all traces of a previous trademark from the records. It is apt to say the trademark acts like it never existed after invalidation. The holder will lose all legal protections a trademark gave them, and a new company or person can file for a similar trademark with the USPTO.
The USPTO hears all invalidation scenarios on a case-by-case basis. However, there are a few guidelines the agency follows when determining if they should revoke a trademark.
You cannot file a trademark and then sit on it with no intention of using it for business. The Trademark Modernization Act of 2020 says the USPTO can revoke any registration over three years old if an investigation concludes the company never used it for its intended purpose. A company can attempt to argue they have future intentions of using the trademark in the future to avoid revocation.
Abandonment may also occur when a company closes down. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot use an abandoned trademark without filing to own the intellectual property. You will need to follow the proper procedure before you can use an abandoned trademark for your benefit.
The USPTO says every piece of protected intellectual property must be distinct and closely tied to a particular brand or idea. When it finds a logo, slogan, or company name has become too generic or does not distinguish it from others, the agency may choose to revoke the trademark and declare it invalid.
Occasionally, trademarks that were once unique and different from the competitors end up as common language. When a brand name becomes so generic that people call every similar product by the brand name, the USPTO may move to revoke the trademark. This revocation can occur even if the trademark holder is actively trying to maintain brand distinction from its competitors.
For example, aspirin used to be a trademark owned by Bayer AG. Over time, people began to refer to any similar pill as aspirin. Despite Bayer’s attempts, aspirin became a generic term, and the USPTO decided to invalidate the trademark on the grounds of lack of usefulness.
Fraud occurs when a trademark attempts to mislead consumers into believing one company is a different one. Some companies and organizations attempt to circumvent trademark law by creating similar logos or using nearly identical branding. If the USPTO determines a company is attempting to commit fraud by copying a trademark element, it can move to invalidate the logo or deny an application.
A trademark may also be invalid if it promotes a good or service the company does not provide. For instance, you cannot trademark a name for your company implying you have “Italian wine” and only have wines for sale from California. Whether because of changing business interests or a malicious attempt to deceive customers, this type of fraud often leads to trademark invalidation.
Copyright law is complex and filled with plenty of technical jargon. Trademark lawyers, like Four Reasons Legal, LLC, can assist a company with filing an appeal when the USPTO determines a trademark is no longer valid. A lawyer will walk you through the process and help you argue your side of the story on appeal. With any luck, you can clear up the situation and keep using your trademark intellectual property.
A: The USPTO may invalidate a trademark if they determine it is too closely resembling another one and could cause confusion in customers. Trademarks must be distinct and create a different impression in customers than others. Additionally, invalidation happens when a trademark is just a description of a product or attempts to deceive the consumer about the origin of a product.
The body also invalidates trademarks no longer in use or from companies with no plans to use the trademark soon.
A: Attempting to use someone else’s trademark as your own would fall under the umbrella of trademark misuse. You also cannot try to use another company’s intellectual property in an attempt to deceive or confuse customers. Trademark protections exist to ensure a company’s intellectual property is distinct and protected from fraud and theft.
A: A trademark violation occurs when a company uses another company’s registered intellectual property. You cannot plead ignorance to someone else having a trademark, whether on purpose or accidentally. Some companies attempt to use other’s logos as a way to deceive customers into thinking they are getting a different product or service.
A: Weak trademarks are typically ones that are more generic and descriptive of products rather than unique and heavily stylized. The USPTO may invalidate or deny your trademark if they determine it is weak and doesn’t have enough distinct features. Trying to call something the “world’s best” is a weak trademark that only provides a simple and generic description.
Intellectual property and copyright are complicated legal subjects that laypeople often fail to fully understand. At Four Reasons Legal, LLC, we can help you with filing for a trademark or fighting to get yours validated. Contact us today for a consultation about your issues.