A trademark audit is at its most basic an asset inventory. But instead of tracking down and counting blood pressure monitors, otoscopes and scalpels you are tracking down words, phrases and pictures (logos) that you are using to promote your business to the public. And instead of checking and noting the condition of physical items and culling out those that are beyond repair or use, your trademark auditor will be determining what words, phrases and pictures (logos) you are using as trademarks and whether you are using these marks properly. It may also find that you are using marks that no longer conform to your desired public image or mission statement and that need to be retired.

A trademark audit should do more than just look at the marks that the business believes it owns. A trademark audit should look at all of the company’s materials that are presented to the public and review them for any words, phrases and pictures (logos) that are used to identify your company’s goods and services. A trademark audit will often identify terms that the auditor views as trademarks that the company may not realize it is using. You might wonder – how can a company not know it is using a particular trademark? This could be because marketing designed and distributed a flier or brochure and due to a short deadline or the thought that it would only be used “once” did not review the terms being used. Or, they may be terms that have been used for a long time that have simply fallen through the cracks.

Historically, trademark practitioners would ask their clients to go through their offices, stores, waiting rooms and marketing departments and collect all advertising and marketing materials, product information, labels, packaging, etc., into a box and ship it off to trademark counsel. With the advent of websites and online advertising, it is also necessary to provide the auditor with a list of all websites and files that include all electronic materials. All of these materials are then reviewed with an eye towards finding the trademarks being used to promote your business, its goods and services.

The list developed can then be compared to a list of any registered marks owned by your company and a list of marks to be further reviewed can be developed. What should then be done with this secondary list of marks will be explored in our post next week.

A trademark audit should also include a review of these words, phrases and pictures (logos) to be sure that these trademark are being properly used (See, Branding 101: Proper Use of a Trademark – It’s All In the Grammar). Similarly, if it is found that you are using trademarks owned by other entities it should be determined if such use is proper. We will explore the proper use of another’s trademark in a future post.

Our Insight. Your Advantage. Over the next couple of weeks we will give you a more in-depth look at what is involved in trademark audit, why it is important to have such an audit conducted on a regular basis and how a trademark audit can be used as a first step in the development of a trademark usage manual.