Policing your trademark is crucial to your intellectual property strategy. Having your trademarks federally registered in the United States is a great first step, but this alone does not suffice in protecting your registration rights. Failure to enforce, or even late enforcement of your trademark registration rights, can result in limited or complete loss of your rights against infringers.
For example, the “laches doctrine” can prevent you from enforcing your trademark rights if you wait an unreasonably long time to take action after learning about an infringement. This doctrine, combined with such things like failing to oppose the federal application of an identical or confusingly similar mark, can result in loss of legal ground to protect your brand or business name.
Also, by not policing your trademark you open yourself up to brand dilution or even losing your mark to generic use. Dilution happens when your mark’s distinctiveness is lost due to an overcrowded space by identical or similar marks. Further, the generic use of your mark by others can destroy your mark’s ability to function as a trademark altogether. For example, the terms Aspirin, Elevator, and Zipper (among many others) started out as trademark registrations until the terms became so widely used in connection with the generic product that the companies who first registered those trademarks lost the marks to the public domain. Therefore, proper policing and control of your mark use is key to long-term registration success.
Bottom Line: Set it and forget it? Not when it comes to trademark registration! Proactive and efficient enforcement of your trademark rights should be part of your intellectual property game plan. Learn your enforcement options and make sure you have an IP Policing Strategy in place.