While all eyes are on China and how it plans to tackle bad faith infringers, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) also is cleaning house, implementing stricter rules for acquiring and maintaining trademark registrations. Unlike other countries, the U.S. is a “first to use” country, not “first to register.” This means, generally speaking and with some exceptions, you acquire ownership by being the first to use a trademark, not the first to register. You acquire these automatic common law rights through use, not registration. Why register then? Aside from being able to use that nifty registration symbol and obtain additional remedies in an infringement suit, you also expand your trademark rights nationally. Suddenly, with a registration in hand, your common law rights in, say, California and Nevada expand presumptively (and over time conclusively) to all 50 states. This is why registrations are so valuable, and this is why the USPTO’s initiatives to remove fraudulently obtained and dead marks have such a significant impact on brand conscious clients. Over the last two years, the USPTO has launched several pilot programs and initiatives.
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