Universities are Working Harder to Define and Enforce Trademark Rights

The Arcade 2.0™: Video Game Law Blog

Ronika Carter
Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The protection of assets is of the utmost importance to the successful operation of any enterprise, and intellectual property rights (especially trademark rights) are often proven to be among the most valuable of all assets. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that many universities are going to great lengths to protect these assets, but protecting these rights may not be as simple as one might think. Not only must applications be prepared, filed, and approved to obtain trademark rights and protections, but in order to maintain these rights, they must also be vehemently enforced, and frequently through the use of costly litigation. These processes evoke discussions about the limits of trademark rights enforcement, and the extents to which universities will attempt to protect their rights.

Issues Common to the Protection of Trademark Rights: Awareness, Positive Identification, and Enforcement

At this point, countless hours have been invested in developing, registering, and marketing your trademark. Even more resources have been expended to capitalize on the value of your institution's trademark through advertising and licensing agreements. Undoubtedly, you seek to protect your institution's rights from unauthorized use, but doing so can be quite difficult. The most common issues encountered in attempts to protect trademark rights, include:

  • Awareness
  • Positive identification
  • Enforcement

While the internet provides unprecedented access to information, it has significantly decreased the probability that trademark owners will be aware of every instance of possible infringement, which is why awareness is an issue commonly faced in the protection of trademark rights. A step beyond awareness is the issue of positive identification; just because an individual or entity is using a similar mark, the use does not necessarily equate to infringement. When determining whether trademark infringement has occurred, the primary concern is whether consumers are likely to be confused about the source of a product. When ascertaining the likelihood of confusion, consider factors such as:

  • Color schemes
  • Fonts and/or styles
  • Products and/or services used and/or referenced
  • Catch phrases, slogans, and related associations

Lastly, enforcement is vital because failure to do so could result in the loss of your institution's rights, in addition to a great deal of lost revenue. Enforcement can be time-consuming and costly, as you must not only work to identify the infringement, but you must also promptly request that all infringing activities cease, and follow up with litigation if necessary.

Addressing These Issues:

Proactivity and diligence are the keys to addressing these issues. Conduct routine searches for products and/or services using marks similar to those owned by your institution. There is no correct or incorrect way to do so; constant and thorough effort is most important. Although it may sound a bit cliché, knowledge really is power, which is why it is important for you to become knowledgeable about, and to understand the extent of, your institution's rights and protections. Lastly, you must protect and enforce your rights. Because enforcement often requires a thorough understanding of applicable law and legal processes, it is recommended that you partner with a law firm, with attorneys who are versed in intellectual property law, as a failure to properly enforce intellectual property rights, could result in the forfeiture of those rights.

If you believe your institution's trademarks rights have been infringed, or you would like to learn more about the ways in which we can help you protect your rights, please Contact Us.

About Us

Watson LLP is a United States based law firm practicing in the areas of intellectual property, entertainment law, litigation, government investigations, and eDiscovery. The firm has offices in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, and Orlando. For more information, please visit www.watsonllp.com.

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