How Long Does a Trademark Last?

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Written By Brian T. Edmondson, Esq.

Hi, I'm Brian. I'm an internet entrepreneur & lawyer. I write about all things internet business & law.

Hey, it’s Brian. This article is for informational purposes and is NOT legal advice, cool? Onto the article…

A trademark is a powerful tool for any business. It makes your brand unique and helps customers recognize your products or services in a crowded market.

But, have you ever wondered, “How long does a trademark last?”

Understanding the lifespan of a trademark is crucial for maintaining the protection and strength of your brand identity over time. A trademark can last indefinitely, but it depends on how you use and renew it. 

This article will dive into the details of trademark duration, offering you the knowledge needed to keep your trademark alive and well for as long as your business runs.

Understanding Trademarks

A trademark is like a signature for a business. It can be a name, a symbol, a logo, or a phrase that sets your company apart from others. Think of the golden arches of McDonald’s or the swoosh logo of Nike. 

These trademarks tell you which company they belong to without seeing the name. Trademarks come in various forms, including word marks, which are distinctive words or names; logos, which are unique designs; and sometimes, even colors and sounds can be trademarks as long as they identify and distinguish a business’s goods or services from others.

The Purpose of Registering a Trademark

Registering a trademark serves two primary purposes. First, it provides legal protection. Once you register a trademark, you have exclusive rights to use it on your products or services nationwide. If someone else tries to use something too similar, you can take legal action against them. 

Second, a registered trademark strengthens your brand identity and builds consumer trust. Customers who see a registered trademark can be more confident about the quality and origin of what they buy. This trust is critical to building a loyal customer base and distinguishing your business in a competitive market.

Initial Duration of a Trademark

The length of time a trademark lasts after you register it varies from one place to another. In the United States a trademark registration has to be renewed between the 5th and 6th years of use, between the 9th and 10th years, then every ten years.

However, there is more to it. You can keep your trademark alive much longer if you renew it at the right times. Think of it as renewing a lease; as long as you follow the rules and pay the fees, you can continue to claim your exclusive rights.

Factors Influencing Initial Duration

Several factors can affect how long your initial trademark registration lasts before you need to renew it. These don’t change the basic duration but are essential to keep in mind as you manage your trademark:

  • Domestic vs. International Registration: Registration within a home country offers protection in that territory. Securing trademark registration in additional jurisdictions is essential for businesses operating globally. 
  • Use in Commerce: Registration alone does not guarantee ongoing trademark protection. In some jurisdictions, proof of active use in commerce is necessary to maintain the registration.
  • Renewal Requirements: The criteria for trademark renewal can differ widely. Some regions may demand evidence of continuous use, while others only require the payment of a renewal fee.
  • Changes in Law or Policy: Trademark laws are subject to change, which may influence the duration of protection or renewal practices. Keeping abreast of legal updates in all jurisdictions where a trademark is registered is critical for uninterrupted protection.

Renewing Your Trademark

Renewing your trademark is crucial in maintaining your brand’s exclusive rights and representation in the marketplace. This process ensures that your trademark remains a significant asset for your business, protecting it against unauthorized use by others.

Understand the Timing

Trademarks are not protected indefinitely by a single registration; they require periodic renewal. A trademark must be renewed every ten years in many jurisdictions, but this period can vary. It’s essential to know the renewal deadlines to maintain trademark protection.

Monitor Your Trademark

Before starting the renewal process, ensure your trademark is still used in the way it was registered. If there have been significant changes in how the trademark is used, you may need to file a new application.

Prepare Required Documentation

The renewal process usually requires submitting specific documentation, which may include:

  • Proof of continued use of the trademark in commerce.
  • A declaration of use stating the trademark is still in active use.
  • Any changes or updates to the trademark owner’s information (if applicable).

Pay Renewal Fees

There will be a fee associated with renewing your trademark. Fees can vary based on the jurisdiction, the number of classes of goods or services the trademark covers, and whether the renewal is filed online or on paper.

Submit Renewal Application

You can submit your renewal application online through the trademark office’s website or by mail. Ensure the application is complete and all required documentation is included to avoid delays or rejection.

Monitor Application Status

After submitting your renewal application, monitor its status through the trademark office’s online system (if available). This will allow you to promptly address any issues or requests for additional information from the trademark office.

Receive Renewal Confirmation

Once your renewal is processed and approved, you will receive confirmation, and your trademark protection will be extended for another term. Keep this confirmation for your records.

Factors Affecting a Trademark’s Lifespan

A trademark can last indefinitely, unlike patents and copyrights with a fixed term. However, its longevity is contingent upon several key factors:

  • Adherence to Renewal Deadlines: Trademarks must be renewed regularly every ten years in the United States and many other jurisdictions. Failing to renew a trademark by the deadline can result in its expiration and loss of protection.
  • Opposition and Cancellation: A trademark’s lifespan can be reduced through successful legal challenges, such as opposition at registration or cancellations after registration. These can be based on the likelihood of confusion with earlier marks, non-use, or becoming generic.
  • Becoming Generic: A trademark may lose its protected status if it becomes “generic,” meaning it is widely used to refer to a type of product or service rather than the source of that product or service (e.g., “escalator,” once a trademarked name, became generic).

Ensuring Your Trademark Stands the Test of Time

Understanding how long a trademark lasts is critical to safeguarding your brand’s identity and ensuring its longevity in the marketplace. A trademark can last indefinitely, provided it’s actively used and properly renewed every ten years in most jurisdictions. 

However, this isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it deal. Effective trademark management involves monitoring your trademark for any legal challenges, ensuring its continuous use, and adapting to changes in the market to prevent it from becoming generic. 

Being proactive in these areas extends the life of your trademark and strengthens your brand’s position and value over time. Remember, a well-maintained trademark is a powerful asset that can offer endless protection for your brand.