January 23, 2022

Volume XII, Number 23

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PTO Outlines New Process to Impose Sanctions for Improper Trademark Practices

As part of its initiative to “protect the integrity of the U.S. trademark register,” the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) issued a Federal Register notice outlining a new administrative process to address fraudulent or improper trademark submissions.

Under this new process, the commissioner for trademarks can investigate and sanction actions that appear to violate the Trademark Rules of Practice or the PTO website terms of use. The commissioner may initiate an investigation based on information received from examining attorneys or data analytics personnel or via external sources such as letters of protest, the tmscams@uspto.gov mailbox, law enforcement and media reports.

Applications will be removed from examination pending an investigation, and a suspension letter will be issued. All documents associated with this process will be posted in the electronic record, which is available to the public via the Trademark Status and Document Retrieval (TSDR) database.

If the investigation does not result in an administrative order, the application will be removed from suspension and assigned (or reassigned) to the examining attorney for consideration. If, however, the PTO identifies conduct that suggests a potential violation of the PTO rules or the PTO website terms of use, it will issue an order to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed on the relevant parties (e.g., applicants, registrants or any involved third parties). The order will set a response deadline and identify the violation, the relevant application(s) and/or registration(s) and the proposed sanction. Appropriate sanctions may include, for example, terminating the relevant application(s), striking a submission, prohibiting a party from appearing before the PTO in trademark matters or deactivating certain USPTO.gov accounts.

If the PTO issues a sanction order terminating a pending application, the TSDR records will reflect that order in the application prosecution history. Where the order includes the sanction of termination involving a registration that issued before the administrative process was initiated, the PTO will not terminate the registration, but the online TSDR records will be updated to note that the registration was subject to sanctions and such entries may affect the validity of that registration.

The notice also states that “additional actions” may be taken if a sanctioned actor repeatedly violates the PTO rules or the PTO website terms of use.

Comments on the notice are due by January 20, 2022.

Practice Note: This is just one of the many ways the PTO is trying to address fraudulent filings. The PTO recently issued sanctions where it found evidence of fraudulent applications and violations of the PTO Rules of Professional Conduct.

© 2022 McDermott Will & EmeryNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 13
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About this Author

Eleanor (Ellie) B. Atkins, Trademark, Copyright Attorney, McDermott Will Law Firm
Associate

Eleanor (Ellie) B. Atkins focuses her practice on trademark, copyright, sweepstakes and promotions, and false advertising matters.

Ellie is experienced in client counsel, strategy and legal research, including portfolio management and the selection, clearance, prosecution, registration and enforcement of trademarks. Additionally, she has assisted with district court litigation as well as actions before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, including drafting complaints, discovery requests and briefs in support of various motions.

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202-756-8392
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