The Commissioner for Trademarks persists in demanding to know where trademark owners sleep at night. Now it’s personal. The Commissioner’s representative (a Post Registration Trademark Specialist) has today mailed an Office Action in a case where I personally own the trademark registration. I am trying to do a ten-year renewal and the Specialist tells me that although everything else about my trademark renewal is in order, she refuses to accept the renewal because I have not revealed to USPTO personnel where I sleep at night. I have today filed a petition asking for the Commissioner to waive his requirement that I reveal to USPTO personnel where I sleep at night. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
One thing about these petitions is that if the Trademark Office wants to be tough about it, the Trademark Office can win simply by running out the clock. The office of trademark petitions could simply toss this petition into the freezer and allow enough time to pass that the registration gets canceled for non-renewal. This is not an idle concern, since there are petitions just like this petition, that were filed as long ago as September of 2019, that have not yet been ruled upon by the Commissioner for Trademarks.
If you’d like to follow this case or load it into your Feathers, here is the TSDR link.
One of the points that I made in this petition is that just like the Commissioner for Trademarks, the Commissioner for Patents has a requirement that the inventor reveal his or her domicile, as a precondition of obtaining a granted US patent. But the Commissioner for Patents defines “domicile” as the “city and state” where the inventor resides. The Commissioner’s definition of “domicile” is not unduly intrusive into the personal life of the inventor. I pointed out in this petition that I am a named inventor on nine granted US patents and in none of those nine patent applications did the Commissioner for Patents feel the need to make me reveal to USPTO personnel the street address where I sleep at night. See for example US patent number 8,268,145 in which it satisfied the Commissioner for Patents that I revealed my domicile to be Summit County, Colorado. (My domicile is in an unincorporated part of Summit County, Colorado, not in any city or town.)
In the present petition I revealed to the Commissioner for Trademarks the same amount of detail about my domicile as I have in the nine applications to the Commissioner for Patents that led to granted US patents for which I am an inventor.
I noted that while the USPTO has offered some indication that it will attempt to keep such sensitive information from being visible in TSDR, USPTO has not provided any assurances that USPTO would protect this sensitive information in the event of a FOIA request. Nor has USPTO provided any assurances that USPTO would protect this sensitive information in the many other systems other than TSDR that are available to the public through a variety of APIs and public resources. The USPTO has not provided any explanation or commitment as to whether or how such sensitive information would be protected, if at all, within the USPTO itself and among the many employees and contractors who work at the USPTO.
The trigger for such Office Actions is, of course, the use of a Post Office Box as the mailing address for the owner of the trademark registration. In my own case this use of a Post Office Box is not idle or arbitrary — the US Postal Service does not delivery mail in Summit County, Colorado to street addresses. If a resident of Summit County wishes to receive delivery of postal mail, the resident must obtain and use a Post Office Box.
It will be interesting to see what happens to this petition. Will the Commissioner for Trademarks “run out the clock” and simply cancel my trademark registration?