Trademarks can provide important intellectual property rights for you and your business. Federal registration of trademarks can help to provide you with important rights and protections down the line in any potential legal disputes. But how long do these trademark rights actually last?
How Long Does a Trademark Last?
A trademark can potentially last indefinitely, however, there are caveats and certain steps must be taken to ensure your trademark rights can continue on. It can be helpful to seek legal advice to make sure you are meeting all of the requirements in a timely manner.
How Long Does a Federal Registered Trademark Last?
If you have applied for and received federal registration trademark protection with the USPTO, your federal trademark registration lasts for 6 years. After 6 years, the owner must file certain maintenance documents with the USPTO.
After this 6 year period from the time your trademark is first registered with the USPTO, you must renew your trademark registration every 10 years. There is no limit to how many times your trademark can be renewed so long as you keep using the trademark in commerce and keep filing the required maintenance documents.
Trademark Must Be Used in Commerce
Key to receiving trademark renewal is the requirement that the trademark must continue to be “used in commerce” for the applicable goods or services. Use in commerce for goods and services is specifically defined by the USPTO as these circumstances:
- For trademarks, the trademark must be placed on the product, labels, displays, tags or containers, and is transported or sold in commerce;
- For service marks, the service mark must be used in relation to sales, advertising or display of service such as on a website, and the services must be rendered in commerce.
What is considered ordinary use of a mark will vary depending on the industry your trademark is used in. If trademarks do not continue to be used, they will be considered a dead trademark by the USPTO.
Trademark Maintenance Requirements
To maintain your trademark, you must complete the following maintenance requirements:
- Submit your first maintenance between the 5th and 6th year anniversaries of your trademark registration date;
- Submit your second maintenance between the 9th and 10th year anniversaries of your registration date; and
- Submit maintenance documents every 10 years after that, for so long as you want to maintain your trademark rights.
Trademark Maintenance Documents
There are three main maintenance documents filed with the USPTO.
- Declaration of Use – Section 8 declaration
- This declaration confirms the trademark owner is continuing to use the trademark as originally registered.
- Declaration of Incontestability – Section 15 declaration
- This declaration states that your trademark cannot be challenged or contested.
- This document is not required, but is helpful to provide increased protection should future infringement occur.
- Application for Renewal – Section 9 declaration
- This declaration confirms the trademark owner is still using the trademark as it was originally registered and provides 10 additional years of protection.
Steps to Renew Your Trademark
Different types of documents need to be filed with the USPTO to renew your trademark depending on what maintenance stage your trademark is currently in. Different documents should be filed for your 6 year maintenance and your 10 year maintenance.
Keep in mind you will not receive reminders from the USPTO, so it is important to mark these time periods in your calendar to ensure you are timely. If these documents are not timely filed, then your trademark will be considered abandoned.
Your first renewal should be submitted between year 5 and 6 following your initial federal registration date. The Section 8 Declaration of Use should be filed at this time. This document affirms your continued use of the trademark.
If you are able to, you should also file the Section 15 declaration which seeks incontestability for your trademark.
10 Year Renewal
Your second renewal should be filed between your 9 and 10 year anniversary from your registration date. A Section 8 declaration should be filed at this juncture as well as a Section 9 declaration.
From here on after, you will file Section 8 and Section 9 declarations with the USPTO every 10 years.
If you fail to timely file your renewal documents with the USPTO, you do have a certain grace period to extend your trademark protection. The USPTO provides a 6 month grace period for failure to file timely maintenance documents. While this grace period is helpful, it does also require you to pay additional fees.