The road to trademark registration is strewn with obstacles. First of all, your trademark must be available, so that it cannot be disputed by a third party. But you’re still not home and dry even after registration. A third party may object years later on the grounds of an earlier trademark registration. Fortunately, this is not a common occurrence, but it’s still possible. It’s also extremely annoying, as by then you have probably been using the trademark for some years. This is why you are strongly advised to conduct thorough research into the availability of a trademark.
It is also possible to object on the grounds that a trademark has expired. The owner of a trademark subject to a use obligation will then have to submit proof that the trademark has been used in the past five years. If you have a trademark that has been registered for numerous products and services (which is very handy for famous trademarks, as copycats are always lying in wait) this can mean a lot of work, as you will have to submit proof for each of these products and services.
Airbnb knows this all too well. A cancellation action was brought against the European trademark Airbnb on the grounds that it was not being used. You would think that this would be an open and shut case as Airbnb is world famous. Airbnb thought so too, but according to the European Trademarks Office, merely stating that Airbnb is famous does not preclude the need to submit proof.
Airbnb therefore submitted a host of evidence, including piles of items, invoices, a Google Analytics report, etc. The European Trademarks Office examined all the evidence and compared it to the services that fall under the Airbnb trademark. The decision came as a nasty shock to Airbnb: the agency saw no proof of use for the majority of the services. This means the deletion of the trademark for services such as a website where reviews are posted, an online database, reservation services: the list is endless. The trademark is still allowed for services for providing accommodation, which fall into two categories, but the other six categories have been scrapped. This was a bitter pill to swallow, and it is likely that Airbnb will appeal against the decision.