“Who owns this trademark” is a question that needs to be accurately answered before an individual or company files an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). If a business owner or brand does not properly identify the owner of a trademark, or it does not list all possible co-owners of the mark in question, the trademark itself could become null and void.
Individual Ownership of a Trademark
It’s entirely possible to apply for ownership of your trademark in your personal name. If you operate your company as a sole proprietorship, applying in this way would likely be an appropriate choice. It’s also possible to have multiple individual owners of a trademark, such as in the case of a husband and wife who operate a sole proprietorship together; They could both be individually listed as owners of the trademark in their personal names.
Corporate Ownership of a Trademark
When your entity is or will be using the trademark to identify itself as the source of goods or services in commerce and advertising, that entity, not the individual, should be listed as the owner of the mark.
There may be additional benefits of owning a trademark in the name of the owning entity, such as insulating marks from the possibility that ownership will be affected by shareholder or owner changes in the future, or providing the company itself with the right to license and assign the mark to others without these decisions being tied to an individual.
Consequences of Not Owning a Trademark the Right Way
When applying for your trademark, the ownership information must be completed accurately, as only the registrant of a trademark has the standing to sue for infringement in court. For example, if an entity wants to sue another business for infringing on its trademark, but the trademark is owned by an officer of the company and not the entity, the company will not be able to bring a suit. Even worse, the person or company who is infringing could successfully have the opposing trademark invalidated on these grounds.
The good news is that simple ownership mistakes can be avoided by consulting with a trademark attorney before you file your application. Your attorney can help you determine who should properly own your trademark and help you look ahead to the future to ensure this decision will still work for you as your venture grows and changes through the years.
If you have questions about trademark ownership and you would like to speak with a lawyer from our Intellectual Property Law firm, we invite you to contact us at 888-666-0062 to schedule a consultation.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.