At the end of each year, it is wise to conduct a review of your brand assets. Once you recognize that your company’s intellectual property is among its most valuable assets, conducting such an audit is preventive maintenance to help avoid costly breakdowns (gaps) in protections. A trademark and copyright audit includes an in-depth review of the legal and marketing picture surrounding your businesses’ intellectual property.
Questions and tasks for performing a basic brand audit:
- What brand names, slogans, and logo are you currently using?
- Are each of the items listed in response to the prior questions protected or pending at the USPTO?
- Are any of your trademark registrations due for renewal?
- Do you have any “non-traditional” trademarks that should be potentially protected?
- Are you properly using the various trademark symbols to enhance your protection [TM, SM, (R)] on websites, packaging, and advertisements?
- Have you set up monitoring (for example, free from Google Alerts) of your key brands?
- Review business insurance policy for intellectual property coverage
- Review domain names owned – and potential domain name registrations
- Review social media usernames – and potential username registrations
- Ensure that employees and contractors have received guidance for proper trademark usage
- Review whether any trademark filings outside of the United States might be made
- If you are planning to launch any new products or brands in 2014, have you cleared the names and filed to protect them based on an “intent to use” the trademarks?
- Are your contracts with employees, contractors and vendor addressing trademark (and other IP) ownership issues?
A thorough trademark audit is valuable because it helps:
- prevent unintended lapses in protection
- guard against unexpected liabilities for trademark situations
- guard against devaluation of trademarks
- avoid a failure to police and enforce trademark rights, which could damage or destroy the value of a brand
- in developing or updating strategic plans related to new products or services or extensions of product lines
- maximize the benefits from your business’ trademarks and copyrights
- educate employees about the company’s trademarks and copyrights
Put a trademark audit on your “to do” list this holiday season, and to help ensure that your brand is reaching its maximum potential!
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