How Long Does Intellectual Protection Property Last?

We’ve written before about the value of protecting your Intellectual Property. Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights protect what makes your business unique – what sets you apart from everyone else on the market. At CLARK.LAW, we help register your Intellectual Property with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the United States Copyright Office, respectively, to help ensure federal protection. After you’ve successfully registered, however: how long does that protection last?

How Long Does a Trademark Registration Last?

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, design, or combination that identifies your goods or services. It could be your logo, your company’s name, your slogan – or even your product’s shape, smell, or color. Trademarks are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Before they are registered, we strongly recommend a thorough trademark search conducted by experienced professionals to help direct strategy and improve chances of registration.

Unlike copyright or patents, trademarks could last forever – as long as you continue to use them. A fundamental requirement for obtaining a trademark registration is that you are actively using the mark in commerce. “Use in commerce” typically means you are making money by selling goods and/or services that are identified by your trademark. This is why when you register your trademark, you have to submit one or more “specimens of use”, which is evidence of the mark being used in a way that meets legal requirements.

The operative word in how long trademarks last is “could” – they don’t automatically last forever. Throughout the life of your trademark, you have to prove to the USPTO that it is still being used in commerce. You will have to first submit proof of this between the fifth and sixth anniversary of registration, then again between the ninth and tenth anniversary of registration, and again every ten years going forward. As long as you keep using your trademark and keep letting the USPTO know about it, you can keep it eternally.

How Long Does Copyright Last?

Copyright law protects original works created by an author that exist in a fixed medium. Examples include movies, songs, video games, software source code, photographs, or even a sculpture. Copyrights can be registered with the United States Copyright Office, which gives the copyright owner the sole legal right to copy or distribute the work.

Unlike trademarks, copyrights have a fixed duration. For works created by a single author, the copyright protection lasts for seventy years after the death of the creator. For works created by several authors, copyright lasts for seventy years after the death of the last-living creator. For works made for a third party (usually a company), copyright lasts ninety-five years after the work is published. Once a work’s copyright protection has expired, it belongs to the public domain and anyone can use the work without obtaining permission from the work’s creator.

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