Rebranding is a common strategy for businesses that want to refresh their image, reach new markets, or adapt to changing customer preferences. However, rebranding can also have implications for your trademarks, which are valuable assets that protect your brand identity and reputation. In this blog, I will explain what happens to your trademarks if you rebrand, and how you can manage them effectively.
First of all, let’s clarify what a trademark is. A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, design, or combination of these elements that identifies and distinguishes the source of your goods or services from those of others. A trademark can be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or other governing bodies for geographic locations in which you use your mark. A registered trademark gives you exclusive rights to use your mark in connection with your goods or services, and to prevent others from using confusingly similar marks that might cause consumer confusion or dilute your brand.
When you rebrand, you may decide to change your company name, logo, slogan, or other elements of your trademark. This can affect your existing trademark rights in several ways:
If you change your trademark completely, you will lose the rights to your old mark. This means that you will no longer be able to enforce your old mark against infringers, and that others may be able to register or use your old mark without your permission. Therefore, if you decide to change your trademark completely, you should consider abandoning your old mark by filing a declaration of abandonment with the USPTO. This will free up the mark for others to use or register, and avoid any confusion or conflict with your new mark.
If you change your trademark partially, you may be able to keep the rights to your old mark, depending on how significant the change is. Generally speaking, if the change is minor and does not alter the distinctive character or commercial impression of your mark, you may be able to continue using and enforcing your old mark. For example, if you change the font or color of your logo, but keep the same design and word elements, you may not need to register a new mark. However, if the change is major and creates a different impression or meaning for your mark, you may need to register a new mark. For example, if you change the word element or design element of your logo, or add or delete any elements that affect the overall appearance of your mark, you may need to apply for a new registration. In this case, you should also consider whether to abandon your old mark or keep it as a secondary mark.
If you keep your trademark unchanged, but change other aspects of your brand identity, such as your products, services, target market, or values, you may need to update your trademark registration or file a new trademark to reflect these changes. For example, if you expand or modify your product line or service offerings, you may need to file a new trademark application to include additional classes of goods or services that correspond to your new offerings. Alternatively, if you narrow down or discontinue some of your products or services, you may need to delete those classes from your already registered mark. Similarly, if you change your target market or values, you may need to update your description of goods or services to accurately reflect how you use your mark in commerce.
As you can see, rebranding can have various effects on your trademarks. Therefore, it is important to plan ahead and consult with a trademark attorney before you rebrand. A trademark attorney can help you perform a trademark availability assessment and clearance search for your new mark, secure trademark properties such as domain names and social media handles, apply to register your new mark, maintain and protect your existing mark, and monitor third party use of your rebranded mark. By following these steps, you can ensure that your rebranding process is smooth and successful.
I hope this blog has answered some of your questions about what happens to your trademarks if you rebrand. If you have any further questions or need any assistance with rebranding or trademark matters, please feel free to contact us. We would love to hear from you and help you with your branding needs.