Trademarks are Forever

Samson

Trademark registrations are the most awesome kind of intellectual property because they can live a long time.

How long?

Really long.

The oldest living registered U.S. trademark is Samson® for rope. That trademark (still in use today) was registered in 1884. Lots of others go back almost as far: CocaCola® and Tiffany® were each registered in 1893. Budweiser® and General Mills® were registered in 1886.

All you have to do to keep your trademark registration alive and well is:

  • keep using the trademark;
  • renew the registration every 10 years; and
  • avoid becoming the generic word for what you sell (genericide).

Contrast that to patents, which have a relatively short life. If patents were people, none would live long enough to buy a drink in the United States. Even worse, many patents now outlive their useful lives. The invention covered by a patent is now sometimes obsolescent even before the patent issues.

Even copyrights die after a fairly long and healthy life. Trade secrets are also awesome. They live for as long as you keep them secret (a trick that’s getting harder and harder these days).

So when you start thinking how valuable patents are, ask yourself: Would you rather own all of Apple’s patents or the Apple® brand? I think that’s a hard decision.

 

 

 

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