What Is a Dead Trademark?

by Louise Balle; Updated September 26, 2017

In many cases, a search for a trademark will either give you no results or a confirmed live mark. Seeing that a trademark is live means that it is currently in use and no results confirms that you might be able to secure the mark yourself. However, it is also possible for a trademark search to reveal that a mark is abandoned or considered dead.

What is a Trademark?

A trademark is a name, phrase or design that represents a business, product or service. It is a unique mark that distinguishes one company’s offerings from all the others on the market. The individual or business who has the trademark holds exclusive rights to its use in commerce. The United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, is the agency that issues and maintains trademarks.

Dead Trademark

A dead trademark is one that is no longer active. A trademark applicant must continue to respond to requests by the USPTO office to keep the mark active. If he does not follow USPTO rules the trademark eventually expires. Other common reasons for a trademark showing as “dead” is that the owner did not use it for three years in a row, which the USPTO considers as abandonment, or due to a case of “genericity.” Genericity means that the trademark was at one time distinct, but is now too generic or common.

Trademark Search

The USPTO offers a convenient online search tool that allows you to check for both live and dead trademarks. When you enter a name in the search results, the database clearly indicates whether the trademark is “live” or “dead.” The search tool also reveals details about why the trademark is no longer live.


It is possible for a previous trademark owner to revive a dead or abandoned trademark by petitioning the USPTO. The previous trademark owner must open a new application and attempt to retrieve the trademark under his name. If another party wishes to take on the mark, he may be able to do so in some cases by opening a new trademark application with the USPTO. Reviving a trademark is often a complex matter, so it is wise for an applicant to hire a trademark lawyer to assist with this process.

About the Author

Louise Balle has been writing Web articles since 2004, covering everything from business promotion to topics on beauty. Her work can be found on various websites. She has a small-business background and experience as a layout and graphics designer for Web and book projects.