In our first post we discussed what a trademark is and how business owners can strengthen the protection of their trademarks. But, obtaining a trademark registration is just the first step—you also need to monitor your trademark to make sure no one else is using it, or a confusingly similar trademark, without your permission. Trademark infringement occurs when another business or individual uses your trademark, or a similar mark, in a way that is likely to confuse or deceive consumers about the source of the goods or services. This can be detrimental to your business by both diluting your brand and causing you to lose customers. This post explores some of the best methods business owners can employ to monitor their trademarks.
Why Do I Need to Monitor My Trademarks?
Trademark monitoring allows you to proactively identify and address instances of infringement before they get out of hand. Monitoring your trademarks helps safeguard the time, effort, and financial resources you have invested in building your brand. By promptly addressing potential infringement, you preserve the unique identity and value associated with your brand. Early detection of potential infringement also enables you to minimize any potential harm caused by infringers and swiftly take action to mitigate their impact.
So, how should you monitor your marks?
Regularly Search for Your Trademark Online
For many business owners, taking 10-15 minutes to conduct online searches for any variations of your trademark may be sufficient. Regularly search for your trademark on search engines like Google, as well as on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. To make this task even easier, you can use specialized monitoring tools like Google Alerts or Mention to get notifications whenever your trademark is mentioned online. Make this simple task a part of your monthly or quarterly to-do list.
Run Searches with the United States Patent and Trademark Office
Another essential step is to monitor trademark applications and registrations in your industry or field. You can run a basic trademark search using the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Electronic Search System (“TESS”). TESS search results will return both registered trademarks and active trademark applications in the same search. If you find a similar trademark that is in the application phase, you may want to consider opposing the application to prevent that party from obtaining a federal registration which would be confusingly similar to your trademark. In certain instances, you may also be able to file a cancellation proceeding to cancel already-registered trademarks.
Monitor Your Competition
It is also a good idea to keep an eye on your competition and monitor their use of trademarks. This is especially important if you operate in a crowded industry where there are many similar products or services. If you find your competitors using your trademark or a confusingly similar trademark, you will want to contact legal counsel to determine how to best respond to stop the infringing use. Our next post in this continuing series will address what to do if you discover infringement of one of your trademarks.
Use Watch Services
Watch services are offered by many trademark attorneys and companies, and they can be a valuable tool in monitoring for trademark infringement. A watch service will monitor for potential infringers by conducting regular searches of relevant databases and notifying you of any matches or similar marks. Watch services can be customized to fit your needs, and they can be set up to monitor specific industries, geographic regions, or keywords. This makes it easier for you to identify potential infringers and take appropriate action. Some popular watch services are addressed below:
- Clarivate offers trademark watch services for both registered and unregistered trademarks and provides monitoring for both word and design marks. Clarivate’s services include monitoring of international and national trademark databases, social media platforms, and domain names, as well as customized reporting and analytics. Clarivate’s pricing varies depending on the scope and duration of the watch service. The service also offers a free demo and consultation to help businesses determine the best plan for their needs.
- Corsearch, which recently bolstered its monitoring services by acquiring the similar service TrademarkNow, offers comprehensive monitoring of trademark databases, social media platforms, and domain names. The service also includes a customizable dashboard for tracking and analyzing trademark portfolios, and the ability to generate automated reports. Corsearch’s pricing is based on the number of trademarks being monitored and the duration of the watch service. The service also offers a free trial period and consultation to help businesses determine the best plan for their needs.
- The Trademark Company offers affordable trademark monitoring services for small businesses and startups. The Trademark Company’s services include monitoring of the USPTO databases, domain names, and social media monitoring. The service also includes a monthly report summarizing any potential infringement. The Trademark Company’s pricing starts at just $59.95 per month for their basic monitoring package, making it an affordable option for small businesses with limited budgets.
While the cost of these services can vary depending on the provider and scope of the monitoring, the benefits of early detection and prevention of potential infringement can far outweigh the cost.
As a business owner, you’ve invested significant time, money, and resources in developing and promoting your brand. Protecting that investment by regularly monitoring for infringement of your trademarks is crucial to maintaining your competitive edge. Regularly searching for your trademark online, monitoring trademark registrations, watching your competition, and using watch services are all critical steps in ensuring that your trademark is being used appropriately. By taking these steps, you can protect your brand and ensure that your customers know that they can trust you and your products or services.