Intellectual Property is one of the most important assets that any group can have. Nonprofits are no exception! We’ve written before about how all nonprofits should be protecting their Intellectual Property. Not only it is tied to your reputation in the public eye – but it can also be licensed out as a revenue source.
Smart nonprofits recognize the value of their trademarks. What’s a trademark? A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, design, or combination of the above that distinguishes your goods or services from everyone else’s. It is what makes your nonprofit, your nonprofit.
Yes, nonprofits can register their trademarks.
Smart nonprofits register their trademarks. The process to obtain a trademark involves working with an attorney to register it with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Before you file, an attorney can give you an opinion about the likelihood that your trademark application will be successful. Some names, slogans, and other marks simply cannot be trademarked. Some are “generic” or “merely descriptive.” Others are too similar to already registered trademarks.
Once your trademark is registered with the USPTO, it is officially yours! You have the sole legal right to use your trademark.
Don’t forget to renew your trademark.
So… once you have a registered trademark, how do you keep your trademark?
Unlike copyright or a patent, there is no automatic set time when your trademark will expire. Instead, the nonprofit owns the trademark as long as it actively uses it. Savvy nonprofits use intellectual property attorneys to ensure that they properly and timely renew their trademark registrations.
You must periodically renew your trademark registration with the USPTO, which we will explain below. This means, however, if your nonprofit continues for another three hundred years, and your nonprofit uses your trademark for that entire time, it can retain ownership of it the whole way!
There are firm deadlines along the way when you need to renew your trademark with the USPTO.
The first time is five years after registering, then again nine years after registering, and finally every ten years after that. When you renew your trademark, you are simply proving that you are still actively using it commercially.
Whenever you stop using a trademark, it is important to let the USPTO know so they can retire it. However, if you do not officially abandon the trademark registration, the USPTO does it for you. At that point, you lose your right to the exclusive use of the trademark.
We help nonprofits manage their trademarks.
Keeping your trademark is just as important as registering it to begin with. Trademarks are unique because you can keep ownership of them as long as your nonprofit is actively using them.
For help with every step of the Intellectual Property process, from identifying to registering to renewing, contact Concerto Law today! We offer practical help for nonprofit organizations that breaks through the noise of bad internet advice.