• Trademark Infringement

Is a trademark valid if it is never used in commerce?


A lot of factors come into play when you say that a trademark is “never used in commerce”. First, let’s sum this up by using the term trademark abandonment. Trademark abandonment generally happens if: 1.) the trademark registration certificate has expired; 2.) the trademark becomes labeled as “nonuse”; 3.) the trademark is used improperly. Because the term “valid” can be interpreted in a lot of ways when it comes to the trademark law, let’s consider these three situations.


The trademark registration has expired

In Singapore, a trademark that is successfully registered is considered valid for 10 years from the date of the application. The owner can then renew his/her registration indefinitely every 10 years. If he/she fails to do so, his/her trademark simply becomes invalid. It could show that the trademark is not used in commerce anymore since the owner did not mind renewing the registration. Considering that this registration lapse happens, third-party groups may be able to use the trademark for themselves.

However, it can also be a different case if the owner keeps using the trademark even if he/she does not renew. In this situation, any dispute will be settled by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore.


The trademark is labeled “nonuse”

This situation comes closest in terms of answering the given question. Generally, if an owner ceases to use the mark for his products and services in three consecutive years, it can be considered “nonuse”.  Since a registered mark is valid for 10 years though, the owner will still be able to keep their rights over the trademark. Even if they don’t use it for consecutive years as long as they can show that they still intend to use it, they can keep their ownership of the mark.

When trademark owners plan to still use their marks, they can better enforce their rights by:

  • Showing advertisements or even plans of distributing their trademarked goods
  • Showing evidence of uncontrollable circumstances that stopped or caused the delay in the distribution of products.
  • Assigning the rights to a third party (if a third party continues to distribute, the trademark rights are considered active.)

All in all, even if a trademark is labeled “nonuse”, as long as the owner can provide proof to enforce his/her rights, it is still considered valid.


The trademark is improperly used

Basically, a trademark is improperly used when owners fail to maximize their exclusive rights to the mark. This will happen if a trademark becomes used by other unauthorized people as a result of the owner not being able to assert control over the trademark. This means that he/she failed to take legal action against those who use the trademark without official. If this happens, the mark will lose its significance and the owner might have to abandon his/her rights. Hence, the trademark will not be used in commerce anymore.