As a small business owner, you have a lot on your plate. It's safe to say that marketing, accounting, and legal all fall under your bailiwick. Your legal obligations alone can range from contract negotiations to submitting corporate filings.

Image Courtesy: Emily Ely So when it comes to your trademarks, perhaps you think once you've registered them with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) there is nothing left to do. Unfortunately, you would be wrong.

Having a federal trademark registration means that you control the right to use the trademark for the goods and/or services recited in your registration. However, for rights in your marks to remain strong, you must police them. Regrettably, third parties sometimes willfully or innocently use trademarks that are confusingly similar to registered marks. It is your job to identify any such misuse and to put an end to it. Failure to do so will result in the dilution of your mark, essentially weakening it.

One of the best ways to police your marks is to know your industry. Remember, you are only concerned about the use of trademarks for similar goods or services. Such use would likely come from your competitors or others in the field. Most likely you already keep up with what is going on in your industry, so identifying any danger to your trademarks in this manner should little extra time.

Another way to police your marks is to periodically do a Google search and just see what comes up. This is particularly effective if you have a fanciful trademark.

In the event that you uncover misuse of your trademark, you must decide what action to take. Depending on the third party, the similarity of the marks, and your industry, you may decide to do anything from making a phone call to the party in question to having your attorney send a cease and desist letter.

The bottom line is that protecting your trademarks (and protecting intellectual property, in general) is important. But the first step to protection is identifying the intellectual property that you have. Traklight's ID your IP offers a self-guided questionnaire to help you connect with the intangible assets in your business, and possibly help you realize that you have more IP than you originally thought. 

Learn more about how ID your IP can help increase the valuation of your business.

ID your IP