Trademark Modernization Act Signed Into Law

On December 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (H.R. 133 – as enrolled) which included the full text of the Trademark Modernization Act of 2020 (“TMA”) as modified from the versions originally introduced on March 11, 2020 as H.R. 6196 and S. 3449. See H.R. 133 at 1019-1029; see also H. Rept. 116-645* at 37-57 (Dec. 14, 2020) (report by House Committee on the Judiciary in support of H.R. 6196).

Purpose of the TMA

At its core, the TMA provides some new tools aimed at “decluttering” the trademark Register of those registrations for which a registered mark was either (1) never used in connection with the recited goods or services, or (2) not used as of an operative date (either the filing date of the application if it was submitted based on existing use in commerce, or the date identified on a Statement of Use/Amendment to Allege Use for an intent-to-use application) – thus suggesting that these registrations should never have been issued. The House Judiciary Committee explained that these new proceedings are intended to “clear registrations from the trademark register for which proper use in commerce was not made.” H. Rept. 116-645* at 37 (Dec. 14, 2020).

Legislative history suggests that this Act was aimed at addressing the “recent rise in fraudulent trademark applications,” particularly those from China, that impede legitimate efforts to launch new marks into the marketplace. Id. at 39.  As of September 2018, applications emanating from China had increased by more than 1100% over the prior 6-year period, and investigations revealed that a significant number of these applications “have fraudulent claims of use and/or fake specimens” supporting the registration. Id. Rep. Johnson (one of the co-sponsors of the House Bill) lamented the difficulty small businesses face in obtaining registrations for “strong, commercially viable marks”, especially when “[t]his market-entry problem has been exacerbated by the recent flood of fraudulent trademark registrations from China, many of which rely on doctored photos to demonstrate use of a mark to fraudulently obtain a trademark registration.” One-Page Summary ¶ 3-4. Ideally, these new proceedings will help create a cost-effective mechanism to clear the Register of this narrow set of blocking registrations for which no valid use could be demonstrated.

Provisions of the TMA

Some highlights from the Act (H.R. 133 at 1019-1029):

  • Permits flexible response deadlines for certain Office actions issued by examining attorneys during prosecution of trademark applications – such that some responses would be due between 60 days and 6 months, instead of the standard 6 month deadlines. TMA, Sec. 224. More details about these flexible response deadlines and associated fees to request extensions up to the full 6-month period must be established by regulation within the next year.
  • Creates two new ex parte proceedings to allow for further examination or cancellation of registrations when the registered marks either have never been used in commerce (expungement), or were not used as of a relevant time period (reexamination). TMA, Sec. 225(a) and (c) (creating processes under Section 16A and 16B).
  • Creates an additional ground for cancellation in a proceeding before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board where a mark covered by a registration was never used in connection with some or all of the goods or services covered by the registration. TMA, Sec. 225(b).
  • Codifies the rebuttable presumption of irreparable harm, resolving a Circuit split involving the standard for proving entitlement to an injunction for violations of the Lanham Act. TMA, Sec. 226.
  • Commissions a study of the effectiveness of this Act – focusing on the time period between 12 months and 30 months after enactment and addressing several targeted areas relating to attempts to reduce inaccurate and false claims of use in commerce of marks registered with the USPTO. TMA, Sec. 227.
  • Confirms the USPTO Director’s authority to “reconsider, modify or set aside” a decision of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in interference, opposition, concurrent use or cancellation proceedings in connection with the Principal Register, in connection with ex parte appeals of an examiner’s refusal to register the mark of an application, or the cancellation of registrations on the Supplemental Register. TMA, Sec. 228.

More On Expungements and Reexaminations

Ex Parte Expungement Proceedings

Expungement applies when a registered mark has never been used in commerce in the U.S. in connection with the goods or services covered by the registration. TMA, Sec. 225, Sect. 16A(a). There are some important exceptions for those relatively new registrations that were filed under Section 44(e) (based on a foreign registration) or under Section 66 (requesting an extension of protection from a foreign application filed under the Madrid Protocol) within the statutory period for proving use in the U.S. Id., Sect. 16A(f) (describing showings of excusable non-use).

A petitioner can only seek expungement between the third and tenth years after registration – which takes into account not only the initial three-year period following registration during which Section 44(e) or Section 66 registrations are not subject to cancellation for non-use, but also caps exposure for these ex parte claims to a maximum of ten years following registration. Id., Sect. 16A(i). In essence, expungement proceedings are intended to target those relatively new registrations for which use never occurred, and, theoretically, the registration should never have issued.

(Note that inter partes cancellation proceedings are not estopped by these proceedings; a new grounds for an inter partes proceeding seeking cancellation of registrations for which the registered marks were never used in connection with the recited goods or services was also created by this Act.  Id., Sect. 16A(b).)

Ex Parte Reexamination

Reexamination applies when a mark was not in use in U.S. commerce in connection with some or all of the goods or services recited in the challenged registration as of a relevant date.  For use-based applications, the “relevant date” is the date of filing of the initial application. For intent-to-use applications, the “relevant date” is the date on which a Statement of Use or Amendment to Allege Use is filed, or when all approved extension to file these have expired. TMA Sec. 225, Sect. 16B(b).

A petitioner can only seek reexamination within the first five years after a registration issues. Id. Sect. 16B(i). This provision aligns with the current time periods under 15 U.S.C. § 1064 for cancellation of a registration on all available grounds, given that some grounds for cancellation are not available after this initial five-year anniversary.

Features Common to These New Ex Parte Proceedings

In both cases, there are certain protections built into the process against misuse of the proceedings by bad actors, such as competitors seeking to tie up a legitimate user by maliciously invoking these proceedings. First, while any third-party can file a petition seeking expungement or reexamination, every petitioner must submit documentary evidence supporting the claim – and the Director has discretion not to institute a proceeding if the Director finds that the evidence is insufficient. The statute requires the Director to promulgate regulations within the next year defining the specific procedures, types of and volume of evidence required to support a prima facie case justifying the institution of proceedings and the requisite filing fees. TMA, Sec. 223 & Sec. 225, 16A(c) & 16B(c).

Registrants have an opportunity to submit counter evidence to prove that their marks are in use in connection with the applicable goods and/or services. Once registrants meet their burden to prove such use, no further ex parte proceedings under this section will be permitted against the same goods and services of this registration and estoppel will apply – regardless of who the petitioner is. TMA Sec. 225, 16A(j) & 16B(j).

The Director also has the discretion (1) to decline to institute proceedings, notwithstanding any evidence submitted by a petitioner, (2) to institute proceedings on the Director’s own initiative based on evidence that he or she discovers independently, and (3) to reconsider, modify or overrule a decision of the TTAB in these cases. This discretion may act as an appropriate check and balance against a potential misuse of these proceedings.

Availability of These Proceedings

Before either of these new proceedings will be available, the USPTO will have to engage in rulemaking within the next year to establish specific evidentiary requirements, procedures to challenge applicable registrations and respond to petitions filed, and the requisite filing fees. As a result, these proceedings are not scheduled to be available to interested parties until December 2021.

Potential Impact of TMA on Trademark Registrants with Legitimate Use in the U.S.

Unfortunately, while the legislative history makes clear that the sponsors intended this Act to target a narrow type of fraudulent activity by foreign actors, as written this Act has a potentially broader impact. Even registrants who can demonstrate legitimate use in the U.S. may also find themselves defending proceedings under this Act.

Accordingly, registrants should be proactive and prepare to defend such challenges by, among other steps:

  • Keeping records documenting use in the U.S. of their registered marks in connection with the goods and services recited in the registration, to be produced on demand quickly and without significant operational expenses at the time the challenge is made;
  • Carefully identifying the correct “dates of first use” on their applications to avoid exposing the resulting registrations to potential reexamination (and cancellation) if their dates prove to have been (fatally) inaccurate;
  • Regularly reviewing their portfolios and confirming that their marks remain in use in the U.S. in connection with all of the goods or services claimed in their registrations – particularly when they are required to submit Declarations of Continued Use during the maintenance periods; and
  • Any time there is no use of the registered mark in connection with specific goods or services recited in the registration, making written records of the registrant’s intent to resume use and documenting steps taken to resume use.

In light of COVID-related business interruptions, many trademark owners may have seen related supply chain interruptions that impact whether or not they can distribute goods bearing their relevant marks in the marketplace in order to preserve their trademark rights. In some instances, these kinds of interruptions might qualify for “excusable non-use” that might avoid a cancellation, but a careful evaluation of the registrant’s portfolio or pending maintenance deadlines might be in order to determine whether these exceptions might apply in a particular case.

Summary

The purpose of all of these new provisions is to strengthen the Register of marks in the USPTO’s system. It is possible that these new proceedings could be a welcome tool for trademark owners seeking cost-effective ways to clear away marks that managed to reach registration despite the registrant’s failure to properly use the marks in U.S. commerce.  In particular, these new ex parte proceedings could help clear some deadwood from the Register, since many registrants would not attempt to defend registration for marks not in use.

The U.S. registration system does not permit registrants to merely reserve rights in marks to be used at a later time in order to prevent others from using them in connection with their own goods or services – but once an application matures to registration, it becomes more difficult (and expensive) to challenge these registrations on an inter partes basis, even if there were proof of fraud.  Once the effective date for these new proceedings occurs, and following the implementation of sufficient regulations regarding the process and evidentiary requirements, these tools could prove valuable to U.S. trademark holders as cost-effective ways to clear the way for registration of their own marks.

Other USPTO Programs Designed to Combat Fraudulent Filings

  • Mandating that foreign filers must engage U.S. counsel in order to prosecute an application and requiring mandatory electronic filing for all applications and TTAB proceedings – see “USPTO Published New Exam Guide on Mandatory Electronic Filing,” Privacy and IP Law Blog (Feb. 7, 2020) (includes links to the exam guides and proposed/final Mandatory US Counsel and Mandatory Electronic Filing rules).
  • Procedures to examine questionable or fraudulent specimens – seeUSPTO’s Recently Announced Pilot Program on Fraudulent Specimens,” Privacy and IP Law Blog (June 12, 2018).
  • Developing and testing automated systems to check the validity of specimens submitted in connection with applications, called the “Automated Specimen Analysis Project” – see discussion in TPAC’s Annual Report 2020 at 14 (Nov. 3, 2020).
  • Heightened verification of declarations and specimens submitted with post-registration renewal applications through a post-registration audit program – seeUSPTO Expands Random Audit Program,” Privacy and IP Law Blog (Aug. 11, 2019).

Additional Resources regarding the TMA

* As this article went to publication, the link to House Rept. 116-645 as stored on Congress.gov did not work.  However, this link was provided in the listing of actions take in connection with H.R. 6196, a prior version of this bill.  It is hoped that the broken link to the official copy will be fixed soon.   

New Trademark Fees in Effect on Jan. 2, 2021

On January 2, 2021, the USPTO’s new trademark filing fees went into effect, applicable to trademark application prosecution matters, as well as proceedings before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. See prior post, entitled “USPTO Issues Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Revised Trademark Filing Fees,” Privacy and IP Law Blog (June 19, 2020).

Among the notable changes (for electronic filing only*) are the following:

Application Filing Fees

Description Prior Fees New Fees (eff. Jan. 2, 2021)
TEAS Standard Application, per class $ 275 $ 350
TEAS Plus Application (37 C.F.R. §2.22), per class $ 225 $ 250
Application under the Madrid Protocol [15 U.S.C. § 1141f, or “Section 66(a) of the Act”], per class $ 400 $ 500

Maintenance Filing Fees

Description Prior Fees New Fees (eff. Jan. 2, 2021)
§ 8 or § 71 declaration (through TEAS), per class $ 125 $ 225
[NEW] Deleting Goods or Services [or classes] from a registration after submitting a § 8 or § 71 declaration, but before the declaration has been accepted [filing through TEAS, per class] N/A $ 250
[NEW] § 7 amendment before filing a § 8 or § 71 declaration, and only deleting goods, services or classes N/A $ 0 fee
§ 7 Amendment (at any time – for any reason other than simply deleting goods or services or classes) $ 100 $ 100

Trademark Trial and Appeal Board Fees

Description Prior Fees New Fees (eff. Jan. 2, 2021)
Initial 30-day Request for Extension of Time to File a Notice of Opposition, through ESTAA, per class $ 0 $ 0
Initial 90-day or the Second 60-day Request for Extension of Time to File a Notice of Opposition, through ESTAA, per class $ 100 $ 200
Final 60-day Request for Extension of Time to File a Notice of Opposition, through ESTAA, per class $ 200 $ 400
Notice of Opposition through ESTTA, per class $ 400 $ 600
Petition for Cancellation through ESTTA, per class $ 400 $ 600
Ex Parte Appeal to the TTAB through ESTTA, per class $ 200 $ 225
[NEW] Filing a Brief in an Ex Parte Appeal to the TTAB through ESTTA, per class N/A $ 200
[NEW] Initial Request for Extension of Time to File an Appeal Brief in ex parte appeal cases, per class N/A $ 0
[NEW] Second and Subsequent Requests for Extension of Time to File an Appeal Brief in ex parte appeal cases, per class N/A $200
[NEW] Requests for oral hearings, per proceeding N/A $ 500

Miscellaneous Fees

Description Prior Fees New Fees (eff. Jan. 2, 2021)
Petition to the Director under 37 C.F.R. § 2.146 or § 2.147 $ 100 $ 250
[NEW] Petition to the Director under 37 C.F.R. § 2.66 (to revive an abandoned application) N/A $ 150
[NEW] Letter of Protest under 37 C.F.R. § 2.149, per subject application N/A $ 50

* Technically, there are still fees posted for paper filings, but given that the USPTO now mandates electronic filing in all instances (see prior posts), there will only be very narrow instances where these might apply. In the interests of brevity for purposes of this post, we have omitted the paper-filing fees in the charts above. If these are relevant to your situation, you can find the comparison here: https://www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Trademark-Fees-Current-Final-Unit-Cost-2020.xlsx.

Note also that the list above is not a comprehensive recitation of all of the applicable filing fees for trademark filings with the USPTO or proceedings before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. For a complete list, see the USPTO’s Current Trademark Fee Table.

Sources for Additional Information:

USPTO Issues Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Revised Trademark Filing Fees

Today the USPTO published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Trademark Fee Adjustment that sets or revises certain filing fees before the Trademark Office. This process follows up on the presentation made by the USPTO to the Trademark Public Advisory Committee on September 23, 2019. (Transcripts of the TPAC meeting and comments received in response are available at http://www.uspto.gov/about-us/performance-and-planning/fee-setting-and-adjusting.)

The fee changes proposed during the September 2019 TPAC Meeting at that time can be found at Table of Trademark Fee – Current, Proposed and Unit Cost – or one could review the USPTO’s Table of Trademark Fee Adjustments for a more detailed view of what would change under the earlier proposal. The USPTO Director’s letter to TPAC transmitting the earlier fee proposal can also be found on the USPTO’s Fee Setting and Adjusting page. When these amendments were proposed, the anticipated effective date was August 2020.

The latest NPRM seeking to revise the fees proposes that the earliest that new fees could go into effect would be October 2020, and specifically states that before the Final Rule is issued, “the USPTO will consider the state of the U.S. economy, the operational needs of the agency, and public comments submitted pursuant to this NPRM. The USPTO will make adjustments as necessary to the substance and timing of any final rule based on all of these considerations.” Trademark Fee Adjustment, 85 Fed. Reg. 37040 (proposed June 19, 2020).

Generally, the USPTO proposes to increase the fees for all application filing types – with higher fees assessed for paper filings. (Now that the USPTO mandates electronic filing throughout the application process, one would expect that the increase in paper filing fees would only apply in very limited circumstance and not actually result in a substantial change for most filers.)

Notably, the Proposed Rulemaking provides a multi-layer fee relating to amendments to the goods or services covered by a registration around the time the registrant is required to file its Section 8 (or 71) declaration of continued use of the mark in commerce to maintain the registration. Specifically, if the amendment is filed by a Section 7 amendment prior to the submission of the Section 8 (or 71) declaration, then there would be no filing fee to delete goods or services from the registration. There would also be no additional fee incurred if the registrant were to delete goods or services from its registration when it filed its Section (or 71) declaration at the outset.

However, if the registrant submits a Section 7 amendment request, responds to an Office Action or otherwise voluntarily amends the goods or services after the relevant Section 8 (or 71) declaration was filed, then the fee to make the change would be $250 per class (if filing electronically – if filing on paper, the fee increases to $350 per class). 85 Fed. Reg. 37040 at 37041-37042.

Clearly the Office is trying to persuade registrants to clean up their registrations in the normal course – and not wait until after they’ve signed a declaration that the mark is used in connection with all of the goods, and have thereafter received an audit request seeking proof, before realizing that they no longer actually use the mark in commerce in connection with certain goods or services, and therefore must delete them.  It is this latter circumstance which would incur the sizable filing fee per class to delete goods or services from a registration during maintenance.

Interested parties have until August 3, 2020 to submit comments in response to the Notice.

More details can be found on the Federal Register’s summary page.

USPTO Published New Exam Guide on Mandatory Electronic Filing

On February 7, 2020, the USPTO announced its publication of a new Examination Guide explaining the requirements of mandatory electronic filing and clarifying the specimen requirements that are impacted by the new rules. USPTO Examination Guide 1-20, “Mandatory Electronic Filing and Specimen Requirements,” Feb. 2020 (the “Guide”).

Shortly after releasing this Guide, the Trademark Public Advisory Committee held its quarterly public meeting. (See also the slides presented during the meeting – particularly beginning at Slide 19.) One of the topics for discussion was the impact of the Mandatory Electronic Filing Rule and its looming effective date of February 15, 2020. (See USPTO, “Changes to the Trademark Rules of Practice to Mandate Electronic Filing,” 84 Fed. Reg. 69330-69331 (Dec. 18, 2019)).

Applicant/Owner Email Address

This guide makes a number of significant changes to the way U.S. trademark lawyers typically practice. In particular, in order to obtain a filing date for a new application, all applications must now include an individual email address for each applicant, which cannot be:

  • Outside counsel’s email address;
  • A foreign law firm’s email address;
  • An email address that is never monitored (a “black hole email address”); or
  • An email address to which the applicant, registrant or party does not have access.

Guide at 6. The Guide also provides some specific examples of types of email addresses that would be acceptable, including an email address for the owner specifically to receive communications from the USPTO, provided that this email address is both accessible by the owner and routinely monitored. Id.

Owner Email Address Required to Complete Electronic Forms

Similarly, if a trademark owner needs to submit a post-registration filing, such owner must disclose an individual email address or the filing cannot be completed using the USPTO’s forms. Id. The USPTO confirmed in its response to public comments during the TPAC meeting that even though an individual owner’s email address is required in order to complete any filing after the February 15, 2020 implementation date, the USPTO will continue to only correspond with the attorney of record, if an applicant, registrant or party is represented by counsel. See also Guide at 7. At least, until the registration issues – at which point it will only correspond with the registrant unless a new power of attorney is filed for post-registration matters. (More on this point, below.)

Owner Email Address Will Be Available to the Public, But Not on TSDR Status Page

The Guide explains that while the trademark owner’s email address will not be shown in the TSDR status page, it will continue to be available to any member of the public who views the individual documents filed in connection with a particular mark. Id. at (In other words, if the owner’s email address is submitted in connection with filing a Statement of Use, such email address would not be viewable on the overall status page available at TSDR for that application, but any member of the public can find it by opening the actual Statement of Use, as filed.) Id.

Petitioning to Redact Owner Email Address – Extraordinary Situations

Trademark owners, or their attorneys, can petition to have this email address redacted from documents available in TSDR by filing a petition “in an extraordinary situation.” Id. (citing Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP) § 1708). When asked during the TPAC meeting what would constitute an “extraordinary situation,” Acting Commissioner Meryl Hershkowitz responded that she did not have a precise answer, because this process was new, but imagined it might include an instance where an individual applicant did not want her email address available to the public because she wanted to avoid contact from someone who was harassing her.

USPTO To Only Contact Correspondent of Record – Until Registration Issues

Finally, both the Guide and comments made during the TPAC meeting also make it clear that the USPTO plans to contact only the trademark owner about matters relating to their files once registration has issued. Id. at 7 (providing that USPTO will contact trademark owner directly when it files a revocation of a prior power of attorney, the designated attorney is suspended or excluded from practice in trademark matters before the USPTO, or “recognition as the designated representative ends pursuant to Rule 2.17(g).”). Id. Rule § 2.17(g) provides that recognition of representation of an applicant by an attorney ends automatically “when the mark registers, when ownership changes, or when the application is abandoned.” 37 C.F.R. § 2.17(g) (available electronically by browsing under Title 37 at https://www.ecfr.gov/).

Similarly, Chief Judge Rogers confirmed in his remarks during the TPAC meeting today that the USPTO will only communicate with trademark owners (and not their attorneys) regarding cancellation petitions filed against their registrations – unless a post-registration power of attorney has been filed. See also Guide at 7 (“Except during the prosecution of a cancellation petition, the USPTO will not correspond directly with a represented party . . . .”) (emphasis added). As a result, it would not be shocking to see attorneys routinely provide their clients with new post-registration powers of attorney for execution, to allow the attorney to continue to receive communications from the Office in connection with completed matters. After all, if a company hires an attorney to handle its trademark portfolio, why would it want to suddenly deal with direct communications from the Office regarding the administrative details required to maintain that portfolio? (I.e., isn’t that what the company hired the attorney for?)

Potential Risks to Making Owner Email Addresses Publicly Accessible

In addition to the privacy/security risks to individual trademark owners resulting from publishing individual owner email addresses on a publicly accessible database (such as the harassment concern raised above), this accessibility also raises the concern that bad actors will have yet another way of impersonating the USPTO and transmitting fraudulent “invoices” to unsuspecting trademark owners, attempting to extort exhorbitant fees seemingly to “maintain” a registration. These invoices routinely bear the wrong mailing address for the USPTO and the wrong applicable deadlines for maintenance obligations. However, depending on which company employee(s) are charged with monitoring this email box, it is not unforseeable that such employee could simply forward that invoice to the accounting department for payment.

In July 2017, the USPTO held a lengthy public roundtable discussion attempting to educate the public about avoiding being duped by these nefarious solicitations. Webinar, “Fraudulent and Misleading Solicitations to Trademark Owners” (July 26, 2017) (video of presentation is still available); see also prior post “Don’t Assume Post-Registration Invoices for Trademark Fees are Legitimate,” Privacy and IP Law Blog (July 27, 2017). During the TPAC meeting today, the USPTO confirmed that it continues to work with the Department of Justice to prosecute these bad actors.

However, notwithstanding such education and enforcement programs, it goes without saying that even the most sophisticated client – upon receiving what appears to be a valid invoice relating to registered trademarks – could be duped into assuming this were a legitimate communication and acting on it as a matter of routine. Providing a direct email address of the trademark owner to the public just increases the risk that the invoice would be received and processed before the trademark attorneys (whether in house or outside counsel) are ever advised.

Specimen Requirements

The Guide also provides some additional clarification about what kinds of specimens will be accepted once the mandatory electronic filing system goes into effect on February 15, 2020. To some degree, the Guide simply sets forth the revisions made to Rule 2.56 (37 C.F.R. § 2.56) as described in more detail on July 31, 2019. See USPTO, “Changes to Trademark Rules of Practice to Mandate Electronic Filing,” 84 Fed. Reg. 37081-37099 at 37090 (July 31, 2019). However, it also provides some important clarifications that are important to keep in mind while preparing to submit specimens online:

  • Labels and tags supporting an application for registration of a mark used on specific goods must not only show the applicable mark as affixed to the goods but also must show “informational matter that typically appears on a label in use in commerce for those types of goods such as net weight, volume, UPC bar codes, lists of contents or ingredients or other information that is not part of the mark but provides information about the goods.” Guide at 9, 10; see also Slides from USPTO Webinar (Dec. 10, 2019) at 56-60.
  • Any website specimen submitted must include print date and URL where the website appeared. Guide at 9, 10; see also Slides (Dec. 10, 2019) at 65-66.
  • In addition to printer’s proofs being rejected, digital images that show “an artist’s rendering, . . . a computer illustration, . . . or similar mock up of how the mark may be displayed” are similarly unacceptable. In essence, these are merely “depictions” of the mark and fail to show actual use in commerce. Guide at 10.

Additional Resources Regarding Specimens: 

USPTO Announces Appointment of New Commissioner of Trademarks

The USPTO has just announced that the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross appointed a new Commissioner of Trademarks, David Gooder, who is scheduled to start on March 2, 2020. The prior Commissioner, Mary Boney Denison, retired at the end of 2019, before a successor had been named. (See TPAC Annual Report, 2019 at 3.) As a result, Deputy Commissioner, Meryl Hershkowitz, has been serving in the position of Acting Commissioner since January 1, 2020.

According to the USPTO’s February 5, 2020 press release, Mr. Gooder previously served as Chief Trademark Counsel for Brown-Forman Corporation and previously as Managing Director and Chief Trademark Counsel at Jack Daniel’s Properties. Before that, he practiced “trademark, copyright and entertainment law at Graham & James in Los Angeles and Luce Forward in San Diego.” (See Press Release.)

On Friday, February 7, the USPTO will hold its quarterly Trademark Public Advisory Committee meeting – which currently shows Deputy Commissioner Meryl Hershowitz as providing the operations update for the Trademark Office. We assume that there will be some mention of Mr. Gooder’s appointment and an identification of some of the initiatives that he would be addressing when he assumes his role.

We also note that the Trademark Office recently postponed the implementation of the Mandatory Electronic Filing Rule until February 15, 2020 and previously announced that it would be providing guidance to the Trademark bar about how this rule will affect specific practices, such as providing direct email addresses and phone numbers for trademark owners. (See December 10, 2019 Webinar on the impact of the mandatory electronic filing rule change).

For reference, the USPTO posts notices of changes to its trademark practice rules on its Recent Postings page, but the pertinent ones relating to the Mandatory Electronic Filing Rule and the Mandatory U.S. Counsel Rule are linked below.

MANDATORY ELECTRONIC FILING RULE

MANDATORY US COUNSEL RULE

  • Requirement of U.S. Licensed Attorney for Foreign Trademark Applicants and Registrants 31498-31511 [2019-14087] [Electronic version][PDF] (2Jul2019)
  • Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Requirement of U.S. Licensed Attorney for Foreign Trademark Applicants and Registrants, 4393–4403 [2019–02154] [TEXT] [PDF] (15Feb2019)