Readers will recall my recent blog post where my client wanted to renew a trademark registration, but my client did not want to let the Trademark Office start using a street address for postal correspondence. My client wanted the USPTO to continue using a post office box for postal correspondence, just as the USPTO had done for the past decade. After several months of trench warfare, the Trademark Office blinked. The Trademark Office has given up on trying to deny our client the ability to use its post office box, and we have our renewal. We won, but it is unfortunate that it took months of trench warfare and a lot of time and money to win. Continue reading
(Corrected to say “Hague Agreement” and “2013” everywhere that I wrongly wrote “Madrid Protocol” and “2003”. Thank you to alert reader Bill Eshelman!)
A recent Notice of Allowability received in our office contained the phrase “Please print from SCORE” which is highlighted at right. I was glad to see it and I was particularly glad to see that the Examiner had added this phrase even without my having to ask for it. What exactly does this phrase mean, and why am I so happy to see it? Continue reading
I dropped off a Federal Express courier package just now. Inside is this letter to Meryl Hershkowitz, the Acting Commissioner for Trademarks. You can track the package here. Barring some surprise it should be delivered at the Trademark Office tomorrow (Wednesday, February 12) by 10:30 AM.
The substantive content of the letter will be no surprise to the Acting Commissioner, because I emailed a PDF of it to her yesterday as you can see here. In other words she and her colleagues have already had twenty hours to consider the substantive content of the letter. But what will be different when the courier package arrives tomorrow is that the Acting Commissioner and her colleagues will have an opportunity perhaps for the first time to see how many signers we ended up with (one hundred and ninety-nine) and how many trademark applications they collectively filed and/or prosecuted to issuance in the past decade (one hundred ninety thousand) and how much money they have collectively paid to the USPTO in the past decade (one hundred million dollars).
She will also see the names of the signers. My guess is that she and her colleagues will recognize many names of trademark practitioners whom they respect and have known for many years, indeed decades. My guess is that she and her colleagues will recognize names of law firms from which some of the signers are drawn.
There are not words sufficient to express how honored I feel to be part of this online community of trademark practitioners who gave of their time and their energy and their professional reputations to tell the Trademark Office things that perhaps the Trademark Office did not want to hear.
The document triggering this letter is an Examination Guide that the Trademark Office made public on the evening of last Thursday, February 6. The document revealed for the first time some measures said to be planned to take effect a mere nine days later, on Saturday, February 15. The honor that I feel being part of this online community of trademark practitioners is only made stronger by the realization that the signers managed to accomplish this drafting and revising and finalizing and signing in a mere three days. This leaves a few days remaining between now and February 15 during which, it is hoped, the Assistant Commissioner and her colleagues may revisit and perhaps even revise or postpone the plans set forth in the February 6 document.
Here is the PDF file that I emailed to Acting Director Meryl Hershkowitz earlier this evening.
And here is the email that I received back from her.
Now what needs to happen next, folks? What needs to happen next is that an infinite number of trademark practitioners and trademark applicants need to e-sign the letter. To do this, click here. The opportunity to sign is open until mid-afternoon tomorrow Tuesday February 11th. Please consider signing.
What will happen is (hopefully) that lots of additional people will e-sign.
Okay, folks, the letter to the Acting Commission for Trademarks is now locked, but for correction of clear errors such as misspelled words or factual mistakes. There is a new paragraph in the middle about the rulemaking timeline and I would be grateful if people can check it for correctness.
Anyway the point now is to round up a lot of signatures. As of just now on Monday afternoon we have more than eighty-five signers who collectively represent about eighty-seven thousand trademark filings and prosecutions-to-issuance over ten years and who collectively represent about sixty million dollars in fees paid to the USPTO over ten years.
So let’s please have a real push now to get as many signers as possible. Of course one cannot know for sure what might make a difference to the Acting Commissioner for Trademarks, but having a larger number of signers might make a difference.
To see the letter, and to see how to sign it, click here.
The Netherlands Patent Office has just joined the long list of patent offices around the world that have pulled the plug on their fax machines. See this notice dated February 6, 2020 in the PCT Applicant’s Guide.
Other recent blog articles about this kind of thing:
Hello blog readers. I imagine readers of this blog have been following the new Examination Guide which was published just this past Thursday February 6, and which will take effect this coming Saturday February 15. According to the Guide, starting on this coming Saturday a trademark applicant, even if represented by an attorney, will be required to disclose his or her personal email address in the US trademark application. The email address will be published in TSDR in the “documents” tab. This will of course get harvested by scammers and spearphishers and worse.
My best guess is that many readers would react to this with the feeling that the Trademark Office needs to mask the email addresses, just like it masks the attorney bar information.
With that in mind, an informal group of trademark practitioners is going to send a letter to the acting Commissioner this coming Tuesday evening. She would find it on her desk on Wednesday morning.
The point of this email is to let you know of the effort. If you would like to join the informal effort, you can. See blog.oppedahl.com/?page_id=5405 .
(Update: The letter got sent on February 22, 2020. See blog post.)
In the letter, the signers ask four things.
- The signers ask that the USPTO discontinue its present practice of intentionally and actively aging PDX and DAS retrieval requests. They ask instead that going forward, the USPTO retrieve priority documents from PDX and DAS at the time that the applicant requests such retrieval. See for example this blog article and this blog article.
- The signers also ask that USPTO discontinue the PDX system, so that going forward, priority document retrieval from the EPO can take place through the DAS system. See for example this blog article.
- The signers suggest that Form PTO/SB/38 be reformatted so that the boxes for the important information (application number, DAS access code, filing date, Office of first filing) be large enough to permit text to be entered in a font that is easily read by the human eye even after the form has been degraded in the e-filing process. See this blog article.
- Finally, the signers ask that USPTO become a Depositing Office with respect to international patent applications (PCT applications) that have been filed at the RO/US (the receiving office of the USPTO). See this blog article.
To see the letter, and to see how to sign it, click here.
(Update: A letter got sent on February 22, 2020 to the Commissioner for Patents at the USPTO, asking the USPTO to stop its foot-dragging on retrieval of electronic certified copies from DAS and PDX. See blog post.)
Here is the setup for today’s hypothetical question. Your docket desk has contacted you to let you know that:
- the crucial 4-and-16 date is imminent for one of your recently filed US utility patent applications in which you have made a Paris Convention priority claim, and
- the PDX/DAS people at the USPTO have not yet retrieved an electronic certified copy of your priority application from the foreign patent office.
You must now figure out whether to file an Interim Copy of the priority application at the USPTO.
This blog article offers a summary of Best Practices comments about this from some very experienced patent practitioners. Continue reading
In a previous post, I tried to be helpful to the Commissioner for Trademarks in her (now his) efforts to smoke out instances of foreign applicants using non-domicile addresses to avoid having to hire US trademark counsel. I noted that it is already an integral part of the Office’s processing of every newly filed US trademark application to run the applicant’s mailing address through an API (application programming interface) that the USPS provides free of charge to the USPTO (and to everyone in the world). This particular API is called the “Address Information” API. The USPTO uses it to “standardize” the mailing address of the applicant, and among other things this forces the mailing address to be all capital letters even if it was originally entered with a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters. It forces the word “Street” to be abbreviated “ST”.
And this API provides to the USPTO a data field called CMRA (“Commercial Mail Receiving Agency”) with a value of either “Y” or “N”. The value will be a “Y” if the address is a post office or a Mailboxes Etc or a UPS Store some other “mail drop” kind of mailing address.
The Commissioner’s office has made clear that it wishes very much to smoke out applicants whose domicile is actually outside of the US, but that are using a post office box in the US or an “in care of” address in the US or some other non-domicile mailing address in the US as a way of evading the Commissioner’s requirement that such a foreign applicant retain US trademark counsel. The Commissioner for Trademarks was quoted as saying “… in most cases, a post office box address is not a domicile because you can’t live in a PO box.”
In my blog article of a couple of days ago I said that so far as I was aware, the USPTO actively discards the CMRA information that USPS provides to the USPTO in these “Address Information” API lookups.
Anyway one might have wondered if maybe the USPTO had actually been making use of the CMRA field and maybe I was simply unaware of it when I published that blog article. And now we have our answer.
The answer is, I am correct that the USPTO presently fails to make any use of the CMRA data from the USPS. Here is an actual case where, if the USPTO had been making use of CMRA data, there is no doubt that the USPTO would have bounced a trademark renewal. Instead, the USPTO snoozed through the use of a mail drop.
It is US trademark registration number 3739329 (TSDR record) which was registered January 19, 2010 meaning that the ten-year renewal needed to get done by January 19, 2020 (a few weeks ago). The registrant’s mailing address at the USPTO is:
1360 Clifton Ave.
CLIFTON, NJ 07012
Lots of folks would instantly recognize the “PMB” element of the mailing address as a telltale that the address is a mail drop. PMB stands for “Private Mail Box”. One mouse click in any search engine immediately reveals that 1360 Clifton Avenue is a UPS Store. Even without the effort of a mouse click, just looking at the address reveals the “PMB” that tells you it is a mail drop.
But the point I am making here is that the USPS API told the USPTO that this address was a Commercial Mail Receiving Agency. You can see this from the screen shot at right. And the USPTO actively discarded this piece of information.
From TSDR you can see that the Trademark Office did make a half-hearted attempt to see if this registrant was a covert foreigner. The Trademark Specialist in the Post-Registration Branch mailed an Office Action on January 24, 2020 saying this:
The post registration filing lists the owner as an individual and specifies the owner’s domicile as a post office box instead of a street address. In most cases, a post office box is not acceptable as a domicile address because it does not identify the location of the place the owner resides and intends to be the owner’s principal home/the owner’s headquarters where the entity’s senior executives or officers ordinarily direct and control the entity’s activities. Thus, the owner must provide its domicile street address. Alternatively, an owner/holder may demonstrate that the listed address is, in fact, the owner’s/holder’s domicile.
It’s not really possible to work out from the TSDR file what exactly prompted the Trademark Specialist to send out this form paragraph, but my best guess is it was the telltale “PMB” in the mailing address.
So how did the registrant respond to this Office Action? Did the registrant respond (as one of my clients did recently) by providing the exact latitude and longitude of the registrant’s office? No, the registrant responded by deleting the “PMB 340” information from the mailing address. What remained after the registrant’s update was the exact same address of 1360 Clifton Avenue in Clifton, New Jersey.
After this update, two things happened. First, the Trademark Specialist mailed out a Notice of Acceptance of the renewal. This happened just yesterday, on February 6, 2020, and it is that event that prompted today’s blog article. In addition, I am astonished to report, the Trademark Specialist actually left the “PMB 340” information in place in the mailing address in the USPTO’s official records.
But most importantly, from all of this it is quite clear the USPTO did actively discard the “Y” value in the CMRA field of the USPS data. And it is clear that the USPTO does not train its Post-Registration people to make any use of the CMRA information.
This registrant used a mail drop, and the Commissioner of Trademarks gave this registrant a pass on its use of a mail drop. Meanwhile for a renewal filed by one of the clients of my firm, the Commissioner has formally stated that one of my clients will see its trademark registration canceled for refusing to reveal its domicile address. One wishes the Commissioner would be consistent about such things.