Use It or Lose It: 4 Examples of Losing a Trademark

by | Mar 25, 2016 | Business Law

The symbol of copyright

For many companies, trademarks are a significant asset. Trademarks allow companies to build brand reputation in a competitive marketplace. Although most companies go to great lengths to protect their trademarks, certain missteps can jeopardize a trademark and even cause a company to lose one.

As a business owner, you know it is critical to protect your trademarks. It is also important to understand exactly how a business can lose a trademark.

Read on to learn several of the most common ways to lose a trademark.

1. Abandonment – Abandoning a trademark is one of the most common ways to lose it. Although temporary non-use may be defensible in some situations, discontinued use with no intent to take up use again is typically considered abandonment.

For example, some companies introduce products on a seasonal or limited time basis to increase demand. This is most likely acceptable temporary non-use. On the other hand, a company that abandons a trademark due to poor performance or lack of demand jeopardizes its right to the mark.

2. Misuse – Companies with a trademark must be careful to correct misuse when they see it. Trademark owners should also ensure they don’t misuse their own marks.

Examples of misuse include making a singular word possessive and using a trademark-protected product or service as a noun.

In today’s world of social media, rapidly evolving buzzwords, and fan-sponsored events, trademark misuse among consumers and licensees is fortunately easier for companies to monitor.

3. Lack of Quality Control – Businesses frequently allow third parties to use their trademarks by entering into licensing agreements. To protect their marks, companies must be diligent about enforcing quality control when it comes to third parties using their marks. So-called “naked licensing” occurs when a trademark owner fails to exercise sufficient quality control over licensees, whether through regular inspections or supervision. Failing to do so can jeopardize a company’s right to the mark. If you enter into a licensing agreement, it is very important to define clear parameters for quality control.

4. Genericization – Sometimes, a product is so successful, it eventually becomes a noun—replacing the original word for an entire product or service.

Anyone who has ever packed their lunch in a thermos insulated food and beverage container, ridden in an escalator, or taken an aspirin for a headache has encountered a product that was previously trademarked in the United States.

Other examples of genericized trademarks include zipper and cellophane. As products become popular, they tend to become household names. Eventually, they evolve in nouns or verbs. At this point, a product becomes synonymous with an entire category of products.

Other companies, such as BOTOX®, Kleenex®, and XEROX® have waged long battles to keep from losing their trademarks. Although some argue that too much popularity is a good problem to have, genericization remains one of the most common ways to lose a trademark.

Protect Your Trademarks with a West Palm Beach Business Attorney

Running a business demands time, money, and energy. When you are busy building your brand, your customer base, and your reputation, you don’t have a lot of time to devote to other areas, such as ensuring your trademarks are safe.

Fortunately, working with a West Palm Beach business attorney can help you manage all aspects of your business – leaving you free to keep doing what you love. Your lawyer can also help you defend against business-related litigation that threatens your bottom line.

Visit here to get started with a West Palm Beach business attorney today to learn more about your options.


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