On February 15, 2020 the US Trademark Office scrapped its old forms for trademark address changes and revocations of powers of attorney and granting new powers of attorney. In their place, the Trademark Office rolled out a new form called “Change Address or Representation Form”. Part of the Trademark Office’s reason for changing things was, of course, the need to force any applicant or registrant to cough up an email address, even if the applicant or registrant is represented by US counsel. The idea I guess is that this single form would be so flexible as to be able to handle any and all functions previously served by the half a dozen or so previous forms.
Anyway, there’s a Big Problem with the form. If you are an applicant and you want to fire your attorney, and proceed pro se, the form’s instructions say you can’t do it. If you are an applicant and you want to fire your attorney, and hire a new one, the form’s instructions say you can’t do it.
Consider the case where the applicant wants to fire its attorney and proceed pro se. The person doing the clicking in the TEAS form is presumably the applicant itself. And the applicant will click through page after confusing page, because this is a “one size fits all” form that is also meant to cover many many other events having nothing to do with revoking a power of attorney. But eventually the applicant might be able to figure out how to say no, I don’t want to change my address. No, I don’t want to change my attorney’s address. No, I don’t want to appoint a dom rep. No, I don’t want to discharge a dom rep. No, I don’t want to appoint a new attorney, I only want to fire the existing attorney. And so on, through page after page of complicated questions. Anyway, eventually the persistent applicant will manage to get past the first five pages and will get to the sixth page where signing takes place.
At this point, ask yourself who is going to be doing the signing. Common sense tells you it needs to be the applicant signing the form directly. Right? If the attorney is going to get fired, there is nobody other than the client who can do the firing. Right?
But the form says “if you have a US-licensed attorney representing you in this application, only your attorney can sign this response.” Here’s a screen shot:
Yeah. The designer of this form at the Trademark Office has in mind that if you the applicant want to fire your attorney, you have to somehow get your attorney to sign the document that fires your attorney.
There is a corresponding problem if your reason for using this form is to fire one attorney and hire another. Common sense tells you that the only possible correct person to sign such a document is the client itself (the applicant). But the form says that the only permitted signer is … you figure it out. One practitioner I spoke with has read the instructions several times and he thinks the form instructions call for the soon-to-be-hired attorney to be the signer. Which of course would be nuts. My reading of the instructions is that the form instructions call for the soon-to-be-fired attorney to be the signer. Which of course would also be nuts. Anyway, the instructions for the form make very clear that if you want to know who cannot sign the form, it is the actual client, the actual applicant. They are not permitted to sign.