How long do trademark rights last?

An active trademark can last indefinitely. The key is that the owner must continue to use the trademark for it to remain valid. Ownership or property rights of trademarks are dependent upon continued and active use and not necessarily secured by a contract or other agreement.

How Trademarks are Lost

A trademark can be lost through abandonment, dilution or common use. If another party can prove, either circumstantially or outright, that an owner has the permanent intention to abandon a trademark, the trademark may be considered abandoned. If an individual or company looking to challenge a mark can prove that it has not been actively used for three years or more, it is sufficient to cancel a federal trademark registration on the grounds of abandonment.

Trademark rights can also be lost through dilution. Dilution happens when competitors adopt very similar trademarks and the trademark holder takes no action to defend his or her mark. Another means of losing trademark rights occurs through common use. This is the double-edged gift of popularity--when a trademark becomes so identified with a particular good that it becomes the generic term for the good. One example is popular use of the word “Kleenex” when referring to facial tissue or “Xerox” for photocopiers.

Duration of Trademark Registration

While trademarks have no set duration, their registration can expire if not renewed. If you have registered your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, it must be renewed at intervals. The first renewal has to take place between the fifth and sixth year after the initial registration. You will have to renew at the tenth year and every ten years after that. If you have a trademark that was registered before 1989, the renewal terms are different. You can visit the Patent and Trademark Office’s website (www.uspto.gov) for more information about terms and instructions on how to file a renewal. You can also discuss trademark registration with an intellectual property attorney if you have concerns or questions about registering a trademark