By Suzanna M. M. Morales
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If you or your company owns a U.S. trademark registration, eventually you may hear that you have the opportunity for the registration to become “incontestable.” “Incontestable” sounds impressive, but what does it mean? And is it worth it for you to pay the extra filing fee to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) to obtain that designation?

First, what is incontestability? In the United States, trademark rights are established through use. This differs from many other countries, where it is necessary to have a registration to enforce the brand owner’s rights. That said, registration plays an important role in enforcement of trademark rights, as well as to put others on notice of the company’s trademark rights.

When the USPTO acknowledges a claim of incontestability, the registration is then conclusive evidence of the owner’s exclusive rights in the mark, subject to some specific conditions and defenses. 15 U.S.C. § 1115(b) This can be quite valuable if the trademark owner needs to go to court to enforce its rights. (In contrast, a registration that has not become incontestable is prima facie evidence, which means it can be rebutted.) An incontestable registration also cannot be challenged on the basis that the mark merely describes the goods or services. Park ‘n Fly, Inc. v. Dollar Park and Fly, Inc., 469 U.S. 189 (1985).


So how does your registration become incontestable? The registrant must submit a signed declaration stating: a) that the registered mark has been in use for the goods or services covered by the registration continuously for a period of five years immediately preceding the declaration; b) that there has been no decision in court or before the USPTO adverse to the owner’s rights in the mark; and c) that there are no pending cases before the USPTO or a court that would affect the owner’s rights.  There is an additional USPTO fee for filing the declaration of incontestability, which is currently $200 per each class of goods and services in the registration.

Unlike other filings before the USPTO that are required to maintain one’s registration, incontestability is not mandatory. In addition, there is no deadline for filing for incontestability. Although the declaration of incontestability frequently is filed between the fifth and sixth year of registration to coincide with a mandatory maintenance deadline, the trademark owner may claim incontestability any time the registration meets the requirements.


Incontestable status can be beneficial if you ever need to enforce your rights against an infringer. For a relatively low USPTO filing fee (the current USPTO fee for claiming incontestability is $200), you’ll have these protections in your pocket should you ever need them, along with the right to call your registration “incontestable.”