With the President’s signing of the Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2021 on December 27, 2020, several important updates to U.S. intellectual property law have been adopted.
Trademark Act Amended
The Trademark Modernization Act (“TMA”) makes significant amendments to the Lanham Act, which will become effective December 27, 2021. The TMA generally aims to reduce deadwood on the register of trademarks by providing for summary expungement. But the Act also made some noteworthy amendments to trademark prosecution and enforcement procedures. A summary of some of the highlights include:
Before adopting a new trademark or filing an application for federal trademark registration, it is wise to conduct clearance searching. There are various purposes behind clearance. These include 1) dispute avoidance; 2) ensuring the mark as strength; 3) evidence of diligence and good housekeeping.
Dispute Avoidance. First and foremost, searching helps assess whether the chosen mark is likely to trigger a dispute with someone who already adopted the same or a similar mark. Importantly, trademark conflicts are not limited to the use of an identical mark for an identical product or service. Instead, the legal analysis typically focuses upon whether the existence of two similar marks in the marketplace might lead consumers to assume that the products come from the same source or that the sources have a relationship or are otherwise associated with each other. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, trademark rights are effective upon the first use of a mark on a commercial product or service. Marks need not be registered. Therefore, the best way to avoid a dispute is to search the landscape of other users in the marketplace to be sure someone else didn’t hatch your great branding idea before you did.
Strength Assessment… Keep reading
A trademark’s value can be lost or weakened when a trademark owner fails to protect or police rights in the marketplace. Even improper and/or inconsistent use of a mark can hamper a trademark owner’s ability to enforce exclusive rights in a selected brand. Even if you own a federal trademark registration, the exclusive rights you own are not “self-executing,” and as the trademark owner, you are ultimately responsible for policing the marketplace, and sometimes your own use, to safeguard against losing rights.
Here are some of the top tools every trademark owner should consider incorporating into its trademark enforcement strategy:
1. Include Proper Notices Of Ownership and Registration of Trademarks. If your mark is not registered, but you have a good faith belief that you own a mark exclusively, you should use “TM” with your mark. This symbol tells the world that you believe yourself to be the rightful mark owner.
Once registered, you should use one of the following forms of notice in connection with each use of the registered trademark, which relates to the types of goods or services described in the Certificate of Registration: ®, Reg. U.S. Pat. & Tm. Off., or Registered in … Keep reading
Trademark rights are jurisdictional, meaning a trademark registration issued in the U.S. may be all but worthless in trying to stop infringement in say, Australia. If you do business outside of the U.S., pursuing trademark registrations in other countries may be valuable. U.S. trademark owners have several options with respect to pursuing international trademark rights and the best choice for your company depends on a few factors, including your goals and budget. As a very general rule we often tell clients that, subject to any budgetary constraints, it makes sense to try to obtain trademark protection in those countries where your company currently trades AND where you intend to trade (meaning generate sales/shipments) in the next 18-36 months.
The main paths to pursuing trademark registration in other countries are:
The One Size Fits All Approach – Filing Through WIPO using the “Madrid System”
One filing … Keep reading
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