Trademarks 101 PART 4: Avoiding Mistakes–Don’t Ignore Abandoned Applications or Cancelled Registrations

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Here’s another mistake startups and entrepreneurs make when it comes to protecting their brand or image: Even if they’re trying to go through the trademark process and conduct searches, many startups and entrepreneurs mistakenly assume that they shouldn’t worry about applications that have been abandoned or trademarks that are the subject of cancelled registrations.

The thing to remember is: Although a trademark registration is cancelled or an application is abandoned, there is still the possibility that the underlying trademark may be in use and/or that the owner of the underlying trademark may have common law rights in the mark.

Ignoring those applications and registrations can be a huge mistake if the mark is in use or if the trademark has not been officially and legally abandoned (e.g. the use has stopped temporarily).  There are many reasons why a trademark registration may be cancelled or an application abandoned which have nothing to do with whether the trademark is in use.  For example, docket failures and failures to overcome USPTO office actions are reasons a trademark registration may be cancelled or an application abandoned.

Therefore, if you’ve conducted a trademark search and you come across an abandoned application or cancelled registration for a mark that is similar to the mark you want to use and the mark is for a related good or service, you will probably want to conduct further investigations to determine whether the mark is still in use and, if the mark is no longer in use, to determine when the use stopped and whether the owner has plans to pick the use back up again.