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Protecting Your Intellectual Property: Why Monitoring Matters
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What if you bought a brand new luxury car – you’ve invested a good bit of money in it, and it’s the car you’ve always wanted.  Would you keep the car if you realized it didn’t have a functioning engine light?  Would you neglect to change the oil or rotate the tires?  Would you leave that “ding” in the car door caused by another car in a grocery store parking lot? 

I presume the answer to all these questions is “no.”  After you’ve made a valuable investment in something, you take care of it, you keep an eye out for problems and then you correct those problems. 

Your trademark is your intellectual property, and a U.S. registration for your trademark is a valuable investment.  The goodwill that you build up in your trademark is an important asset.  The branding and marketing campaigns using your trademark are valued expenditures. 

Trademark owners need to, figuratively speaking, keep an eye on the engine.  Getting a federal registration is like pulling out of the dealership with that new car – now you must monitor and properly care for your new trademark. 

With consumers’ reliance on the Internet, and features like Google Maps or other online search tools, all businesses, whether local, regional or national in scale, need to be concerned about how their trademarks are being used (or misused) on the Internet. 

Furthermore, the Internet plays host to cybersquatters who purposely register domain names that are very similar to well-known trademarks in an attempt to trick customers into accidentally landing on their websites.  If trademark owners are not monitoring the use of these types of websites, it’s a bit like letting strangers drive that new car.  (Envision the scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when the parking attendants speed recklessly away with Cameron’s father's rare 1961 Ferrari GT California.)

And, like you might park your new car at the back of the parking lot to prevent other drivers from parking too close, trademark owners need to monitor other trademark applications to prevent someone else from registering a mark that is “too close.”  While the United States Patent and Trademark Office attorneys responsible for reviewing and approving new applications may sometimes prevent someone from registering a trademark that is too close to your registered mark, trademark owners should not rely on this process alone to protect their mark.

Luckily, trademark monitoring technology continues to expand and improve, and legal remedies exist to protect and defend your trademark.  However, if the trademark is not being monitored, infringements to the brand may go unnoticed for a long period of time and may have substantial impact on the investment in the brand. 

Receiving an official Registration Certificate from the United States Trademark Office or launching the first marketing campaign for a new brand can both be great and joyful moments for trademark owners.  But brands must be monitored if the valuable investment is to be protected. 

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