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New Report on Growing Trademark Infringement – and How to Avoid Conflicts

A new report by Thompson Compumark provides some valuable insight into the world of trademarks. The news isn’t all good: while the number of trademarks is increasing, trademark infringement is also on the rise. When you read between the lines, however, the report suggests that there are ways to stay ahead of the competition and to minimize the risk of conflict.

The report, titled “The trademark ecosystem”, was drawn from a survey the views of 351 trademark professionals across five countries, including in-house and outside counsel, as well as from other data sources and news reports.

The first key point is that trademark filings are on the rise.

According to the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) nearly 11 million marks were filed in 2018, covering 14.3 million classes, which equates to a rise of 15.5% from 2017. It is also the ninth year in a row that applications have increased.

This means that there is ever more competition for valuable trademarks. But it also means that more products and services are coming to market.

I should note that most of the growth in these numbers is coming from China. As I detailed in a recent blog post, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has recently put into place policies and procedures to protect against fraudulent trademark filings, primarily from China.

The number of active trademarks worldwide is about 82.9 million. Why are these growing numbers important? According to the report:

The more trademarks and trademark applications, the greater risk of infringement, and the more resources, namely time and money, need to be spent actively protecting a trademark portfolio.

The report takes a close look at the economic impact of the growing number of trademark infringement claims. The numbers are alarming. Here are some results from the survey:

• 46% of respondents had to change a brand name as a result of infringement

• 75% of respondents say infringement has led to litigation

• 40% of respondents have spent between $50,000 – $249,999 on infringement cases

It’s clear that businesses need to focus on avoiding trademark conflicts wherever possible.

There is a sliver lining in this report. You may be surprised to find out that the trademark professionals that were surveyed reported that they don’t do clearance searches on most of their trademarks:

When asked about how many trademarks they searched before filing, just 29% say they search more than three quarters of marks. Most respondents say they search between 26-50% of marks.

The upshot is that going through the trademark due diligence search process before using or applying to register a mark will put a business way ahead of the competition. If most businesses aren’t doing their research before moving forward with a trademark, those who take the time to do so will reduce the legal costs of potential conflicts down the line. Going through a proper search won’t necessarily prevent others from infringing on your mark, but it can prevent you from inadvertently causing a legal conflict with another party who may have a claim on your proposed trademark.

If you want to discuss a trademark search or filing, feel free to be in touch.

Full disclosure time: Thompson Compumark engaged the independent survey firm Vitreous World in preparation of the report; however, Thompson Compumark does provide trademark search services. I have used their services in the past, but I don’t currently work with them.

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