Well perhaps not a 401(k), but a trademark does need a retirement plan. When a business a legacy mark with a new mark, the legacy mark may be deemed abandoned, free for anyone to adopt. To the extent that the legacy mark has residual good will, it may be lost to the owner, and may inure to the usurper. This unsatisfactory result can be avoided with a little (retirement) planning.
First, the owner should avoid any external (or internal) statements that the legacy mark it being dropped, eliminated or abandoned. It is sufficient to direct use of the new mark.
Second, the owner should use both the legacy mark and the new mark on product and in advertising, gradually decreasing the prominence of the legacy mark until customers’ loyalty is transferred to the new mark.
Third, the owner should find a version or model of the product on which to continue to use the mark. Ideally, this use would be continuous, but anniversary or special or limited editions can be enough to maintain rights. It may even be possible to introduce the new mark as a premium brand over the legacy brand.
Fourth, the business should step up its use of the legacy mark in connection with warranty and repair services and replacement parts. Registering the legacy mark for these services and parts will help maintain rights in the legacy mark.
Fifth, feature the legacy mark in company/product line histories in printed materials and on the company’s website.
Make no mistake, the only reason that an usurper would adopt another company’s legacy mark is to take the residual good will and divert business from the legacy brand owner. A few simple steps during re-branding can insure that your legacy mark enjoys a happy retirement.