CONTEXT: I started a magazine for a UK publisher 15 years ago as an employee (founding editor), ie with no ownership, which remained 100% with the publisher.
Subsequently that publisher was bought out, and it is now owned by a different UK company.
The previous company put a great deal of time and money into making this UK-based magazine available in the USA, including setting up distribution in shops and an office in the USA from which it operated.
The new publisher reined that all back in so there's now much less US identity although we still print a US edition of every issue and send a number of mags over there.
DISCOVERY: Due to the recent use of the title's name by another company, unrelated to our area of focus (a certain sport) but using the exact name for their own sporting venture (a different sport), I did a search for trademark ownership of our title/brand. Turns out the magazine's title isn't owned by anyone. It used to be owned by someone but that is now classified as 'dead'.
QUESTION: If the UK publisher doesn't own the name in the US can the US trademark be bought by someone (eg me), and if so, can the UK publisher continue to sell the magazine in the US? (eg if Time Magazine was sold in say, China, but the US publishers had failed to register the title with Chinese trademark authorities, if I registered it there, would I have any negotiating power with Time Inc. USA? NOTE: The example is entirely theoretical)
EXPLANATION: I know this sounds bizarre and underhand, but relations between myself and the new employers have deteriorated to pretty much all-out conflict. I have get regular hints that they are about to close the title or 'move me on'. Since I started the title 15 years ago and have worked loyally for it for that time, and was in negotiations with the previous publishers for a slice of ownership of the title just when we were bought out (the new owners ended negotiations immediately - "no chance"), I'm trying to find a way to at least retain some control over the title, and owning it in the USA would be ideal.
I'm not proud to be thinking along these lines at all but the situation has become quite urgent. If I registered the title name in the US, would that be of any benefit to me, or do they already own the name in common law since they've been selling there for ten years or more, albeit only a few copies?
Thanks for any thoughts you have on this!