Failure to maintain a formal business structure when securing trademark rights can be the death knell to your brand. Two business partners registered a domain name and that website identified both women as co-owners. The two women later filed a trademark application.
After a disagreement over who should own what percentage of the company, one partner went off on her own, and they both sold product under the brand name. The mark was never assigned, transferred, or licensed – and there was no contract or other agreement addressing the assets of the defunct business venture. One of the partners later filed an application to register the mark. The other partner opposed the application.
The TTAB board noted that the function of a mark is to identify a single source of goods; therefore, recognizing more than one owner of a mark is “contrary to the basic definition of a mark as identifying and distinguishing a single seller’s goods or services.” The board stated that an application filed by a party who is not the owner of the mark is void. “Here, the records make clear, and we clearly find, that the involved application is void ab initio because applicant is not the sole owner of the mark.”