When should I sue for Trademark Infringement?

When should I sue for Trademark Infringement?

A trademark is an asset of a business.  Businesses invest significant time money and effort into creating and developing trademarks.  When a business learns that a trademark has created is being infringed upon by a competitor, the business may want to hold off for as long as possible before filing a lawsuit.  Lawsuits can be expensive and time consuming, the two parties might be able to come to an agreement without getting the courts involved or perhaps the business is not sure that its trademark is really being infringed.  But the longer a business waits to file a trademark infringement lawsuit, the more likely it is that a court in the United State will not help the business stop the trademark infringement.  When a court does not help you enforce your rights because you waited too long to sue, that means that your lawsuit is not timely because the statute of limitations expired or because of the doctrine of laches prevents recovery.

Suing a competitor for any type of claim is always going to raise a question of whether the lawsuit was filed before the statute of limitations expires. The general rule is, when you learn that someone caused you harm or infringed on your rights, the statute of limitations begins to run on your right to sue. The duration of the statute of limitations primarily depends on two facts: the type of claim and where the claim arose.

The primary source for trademark law throughout the United States of America is the federal statute known as the Lanham Act, which was passed by Congress in 1946 and amended in 1996. The Lanham Act provides, several benefits for trademark owners including the right to sue for trademark infringement in United States federal court, the right to obtain a court injunction against an infringing party, the right to collect money damages and, in some cases, the right to confiscate infringing products. But, the Lanham Act fails to provide is a clearly stated statute of limitations regarding when a trademark owner must sue someone for infringement. Federal courts have dealt with the issue by applying the statute of limitations found in the state law where the infringing activity occurred. This means that the statute of limitations for trademark infringement depends on the state where your trademark infringement lawsuit is filed.  The federal courts will typically impose the statute of limitations from the state trademark law.

Sometimes the courts will say that a trademark infringement lawsuit is barred based on the doctrine of laches.  The legal doctrine of laches is known as an equitable principle and does not rely on a specific statute. Both federal and state courts have the power to apply equitable legal principles to prevent injustice. As it applies to a trademark infringement case, the doctrine of laches provides a complete defense to an alleged infringer if the trademark owner’s delay in filing the lawsuit unduly prejudices the alleged infringer.  The doctrine of laches is premised on the idea that it would be inequitable for a party to simply sleep on its rights. That means that a senior user of a trademark should not be allowed to wait, while a junior user spends money and time developing a mark and expanding its business based on that mark, only to later act to prevent the mark’s use. In addition, since infringement actions are designed to protect consumers by eliminating confusion in the marketplace, allowing infringement to unnecessarily persist undermines free market mechanisms.

If you believe that your believe that your trademark is being infringed upon you should contact an attorney that specializes in trademark law to advise you.