For many business owners, December is busy with more than holiday celebrations. Collecting information for tax preparation, business assessment, and business planning for the coming year comes to a head with the year-end. Take advantage of the opportunity to assess and bolster your trademarks and brand strength for greater profitability and revenue as a part of your year-end routine. A short 3-step program can piggy-back on the information and analysis gathered at this time of year to reap rewards in the coming year.

1. First, take inventory of your trademarks.

  • What marks are you using to identify your products and services? 
  • Are your marks working well to distinguish your products and services from your competitors?
  • Do your marks convey the image and message consistent with your brand?
  • Are different marks used within certain countries, markets or channels?
  • Which marks generate the most revenue, provide greatest recognition or brand identification, or otherwise have greatest value to your business?
  • Check to see if your marks are being improperly used by others, or used without your permission. Are there infringing uses by others that need to be addressed to prevent confusion and a loss of business or disparagement or dilution of your marks and brand? Are any of your marks targets of parasitic copying – similar marks or packaging used to confuse consumers – that may divert sales from your products or services?

2. Next, check to see that your marks are protected and enforceable.

  • Have you registered your marks in the countries where they are used or where you intend to use your marks?
  • Are you using the “TM” and “®” notices appropriately?
  • Are your registered marks being used or planned to be used with any new goods or services?
  • Are there any maintenance actions due?
  • Order a watch service to monitor new applications for marks that may be confusingly similar to your marks for early action.
  • Have your registered marks been recorded with Customs and Border Protection to facilitate border monitoring and enforcement? Would an Amazon Registry filing be appropriate and beneficial?
  • Should steps be taken to stop active or potential infringers or other unauthorized users?

3. Now you’re set to work your marks to leverage your brand.

  • What new products and services will you launch in 2020?
  • What are your competitors’ marks and brand positioning?
  • Which of your existing marks, or what new marks will you choose to use in 2020?
  • Select, search, and clear new marks that are distinctive and enforceable.
  • Check your labeling, packaging and promotional materials for proper use.
  • Update any licenses, websites, apps, and terms or use or privacy policies.
  • File applications to register new marks or expanded products or services under existing marks.

by Gail Hashimoto