One of the biggest challenges for many small business owners is trademark protection. When it comes to intellectual property and trademarks, you have to be attentive to any potential infringement. If you don't monitor these things and take action against them, the courts may determine that you surrendered your right to enforce it later. That means that if another company infringes on your trademark and surpasses your business, you won't be able to do anything about it after the fact. Here's a look at what you need to know.
Confusion Over Statute of Limitations
One of the biggest misconceptions for business owners is that they can seek corrective action at any time because there's no specific statute of limitations on the books for trademark infringement. Unfortunately, the lack of a statute of limitations doesn't actually translate into an open-ended time frame for action.
Most local court districts set their own time frames for seeking restitution for trademark infringement. That time frame is usually based upon what the courts deem as a reasonable time for most people to identify such infringement and attempt resolution on their own. For example, in the state of Wisconsin, section 100.18 paragraph 11(b) of the Deceptive Practices Act mandates that no action may be taken after 3 years from the occurrence. That means in Wisconsin, you can't file for trademark enforcement after 3 years from the time that it happened. The courts have deemed that period long enough for any business owner to have recognized the infringement.
Tips For Protecting Your Rights
With the timelines for enforcement being unpredictable from state to state, the one thing that is consistent is the fact that you should defend your rights to your trademark right away. In order to ensure that you can do this in a timely manner, there are a few things that you should do.
Monitor any activity that could be deemed as infringing on your company's trademarks. Remember to expand your monitoring to anything that could be seen as similar as well as things that are identical.
When you do find anything that could be deemed as infringement, consider whether or not it is likely to actually confuse consumers who may be looking for your business. For example, if it's being used by a company in a completely different industry, it's not likely to confuse customers who are looking for you.
Take action on anything that could cause confusion. Don't waste time or put it off until later, otherwise you may risk issues with later enforcement. You can start by reaching out to the infringing company or by sending them a cease and desist letter. Just remember that you need to be fully prepared to follow through with court. Otherwise, your company will get the reputation of being all talk and no action. Make it clear that you'll protect your rights and then do so in a timely manner. For more information, contact a business such as Lingbeck Law Office.