How can I police a trademark infringement?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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A registered trademark is a prized commodity. Trademarks are associated with quality in the marketplace, and trademark infringement can damage the name of an otherwise reputable company. Current case law holds that it’s the responsibility of trademark owners to police their own trademarks. This means it’s up to you to stay aware of both registered trademarks as well as unregistered trademarks that are similar or identical to your own. With this fast-paced market, it can seem daunting to catch every trademark infringement, but there are some ways to help your policing go smoothly.

How to Police Trademark Infringement

If you can afford it, employ a professional “watch” organization to review trademarks being published for opposition in the Trademark Office and notify you of similar trademarks. These organizations spend the entire day scouting both online and in-store markets to make certain that your trademark is protected. They search press releases, run computer algorithms, and use the perfect search terms on the Trademark Electronic Search System, or TESS, to make certain there is no trademark infringement taking place.

For those with a mid to large sized business, ask your employees, friends, and customers to report any similar trademarks. Multiple pairs of eyes and ears are more effective than one. If you’ve built up a rapport with customers and respect from employees, ask for their help. If you’ve already encountered infringers in the past, offer an incentive to your extra sets of eyes if they do find a similar trademark.

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Similar Trademarks Already in Use

Issue demand letters to those who are using similar trademarks and sue them if they do not discontinue their infringing behavior. The seizure of infringing goods may also be an available remedy.

As a cautionary note, be certain that the party you are about to accuse of infringement does not have prior and superior rights to yours. A trademark attorney is the safest way to ensure that proper research is conducted about the possible trademark infringement. When dealing with trademark infringement, you can consult with an intellectual property, trademark, or business lawyer for advice and to help draft an effective demand letter.

File your trademarks with the United States Customs Office. Customs will prevent infringing goods from entering the country. There are still over 20 countries who are unregistered when it comes to intellectual property treaties. Those countries will not prosecute trademark infringers. In order to make sure that your company’s trademark does not appear on a product that clearly is not yours, enlist the help of customs. They will block any cargo from entering the country with a fraudulent trademark.

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