Likelihood of Confusion trademarks service marks

Likelihood of Confusion – Trademarks

“Likelihood of confusion” is a legal test. It is applied by the courts and administrative agencies to contested Trademark/Service Mark proceedings and by United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Examiners during the registration process for Trademark/Service Mark Applications.

Likelihood of Confusion – What Law Applies?

Before a federal Trademark is granted, an Applicant must prove to the USPTO that the Trademark was used on goods and/or services in commerce that the U.S. Congress may lawfully regulate. The geographical limit for a federal Trademark registration is the geographical boundary of the United States and its territories.

Federal Jurisdiction

Federal jurisdiction of Trademarks/Service Marks (hereinafter Trademarks) can be controlled by the precedent of the US Supreme Court or one of the thirteen federal circuit courts sitting beneath the US Supreme Court.

Each of the thirteen federal circuits has its own case law precedent for adjudicating “likelihood of confusion” for contested Trademarks.  Although the case law precedent of the federal circuits is similar, it is not identical.

State Jurisdiction

When a Trademark is granted at the State level, the law of that State controls court and agency proceedings. The laws of the several States are variable on the standards for “likelihood of confusion.” The geographical limit for a State Trademark is the border of the State.

Likelihood of Confusion – USPTO Trademark Applications

For the USPTO, the “likelihood of confusion” precedent for Trademark Examiners is set forth in the case of In re E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 177 U.S.P.Q. 563 (C.C.P.A. 1973). Today, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has jurisdiction over appeals from USPTO agencies and adopted the du Pont case as precedent.

On page 567 of the du Pont case, the court stated:

“In testing for the likelihood of confusion under 15 U.S.C. § 1052 Sec. 2 (d), the following, when of record, must be considered:

  1. The similarity or dissimilarity of the marks in their entireties as to appearance, sound, connotation and commercial impression.
  2. The similarity of dissimilarity and nature of the goods or services as described in an application or registration or in connection with which a prior mark is in use.
  3. The similarity or dissimilarity of established, likely-to-continue trade channels.
  4. The conditions under which and buyers to whom sales are made, i.e., “impulse” vs. care, sophisticated purchasing.
  5. The fame of the prior mark (sales, advertising, length of use.)
  6. The number and nature of similar marks in use on similar goods.
  7. The nature and extent of any actual confusion. The length of time during and conditions under which there has been concurrent use without evidence of actual confusion.
  8. The variety of goods on which a mark is or is not used (house mark, “family” mark, product mark).
  9. The market interface between applicant and the owner of a prior mark… (e.g., have the interested parties executed a contract to proclaim there is no confusion?).
  10. The extent to which the applicant has a right to exclude others from use of its mark on its goods.
  11. The extent of potential confusion, i.e., whether de minimis or substantial.
  12. Any other established fact probative of the effect of use.”

If the Examiner or the USPTO determines there is a “likelihood of confusion” between Applicant’s Trademark and a prior Registration or pending Application, the USPTO will refuse to register the junior Applicant’s Trademark.


With regard to the “likelihood of confusion” test, each of the federal circuit courts have adopted precedent similar to the test set forth in the case of In re E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 177 U.S.P.Q. 563 (C.C.P.A. 1973). When possible, parties to an infringement will attempt to try the case in a venue most favorable a party’s evidence and arguments.

Have Questions on Your Trademark?

Business Patent Law, PLLC assists companies and individuals with the procurement and management of their Intellectual Property portfolios.

If your enterprise needs legal assistance procuring/managing/enforcing your Patent Applications, Patents, Copyrights or Trademarks/Service Marks, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC.

Business Patent Law, PLLC provides intellectual property and business counsel for businesses of all sizes.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your business and intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Representing Yourself for Trademarks and Patents

Representing Yourself for Patents & Trademarks: Going “Pro Se”

Pro Se USPTO Representation

Pro se” is a Latin phrase meaning “for himself.” Under United States law, an Applicant can represent himself/herself/itself before the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO).

Can a pro se Applicant achieve favorable results from a USPTO Examiner? Maybe. Maybe not. Success may depend on the legal skill of the Applicant.

What is a “Favorable Result” for a Pro Se Applicant?

Favorable results include attributes such as:

  • Defensibility against an allegation of unpatentability
  • The durability of the patent or trademark
  • Enforceability
  • The scope of rights granted by the USPTO to the Applicant

Three Primary Types of USPTO Representations 

An Applicant can be a large company, a small company, a partnership, a trust, an individual, or another entity.

Large Businesses

Many large companies have “in-house” intellectual property attorneys who represent the large companies before the USPTO. If an “in-house” attorney fails to meet management’s objectives, the large company usually will hire another attorney who will meet the large company’s objectives.

For legal matters before the courts or other tribunals, large companies usually hire one or more “outside counsels” to represent the company. Sometimes, these intellectual property cases can have more than a billion dollars in potential damages.

Small Businesses with Resources

Small companies with sufficient revenues usually retain smaller intellectual property law firms to represent their company before the USPTO and the courts or other tribunals. The USPTO defines a small business as a legal entity with 500 or fewer employees.

Small Businesses, Start-ups or Individuals on a Tight Budget

Sometimes, small companies, start-ups or individuals opt for pro se representation before the USPTO, based solely on their budget limitations. Pro se representation by a non-lawyer may achieve favorable results for the Applicant. According to the USPTO database, it appears that favorable results tend to be more closely associated with Trademark Applications than with Patent Applications.

Be aware: if the pro se Applicant’s results are not favorable, the expense of hiring an intellectual property attorney in an attempt to achieve better results will likely be much more costly than it would have been to retain an attorney at the beginning of the process. Unfortunately for the Applicant, sometimes the facts associated with the Application are so unfavorable that issues with the Application cannot be corrected.

What if the USPTO Says No?

What can a pro se Applicant do when an Examiner refuses to approve the Applicant’s Mark for registration? What does the pro se Applicant (and now owner of a federal Registration) do when a USPTO Opposition or Cancellation Proceeding is initiated against the owner’s Federal Registration?

Business Patent Law’s Recommendation:  seek the advice of an intellectual property attorney who has experience practicing before the US Trademark Office. The experienced professional may be able to correct or resolve the Trademark Application issues and preserve the Applicant’s procedural and substantive rights.

What if an Examiner makes your Patent Application Rejection Final? 

The Patent Applicant’s options can include filing one of the following:

  • An Appeal
  • A Request for Continued Examination
  • A Continuation Application
  • A Divisional Application

An Applicant may also allow the Application to go abandoned.

Business Patent Law’s Recommendation: seek the advice of a patent attorney who has experience practicing before the US Patent Office. There is no substitute for a seasoned patent attorney representing the Applicant before the US Patent Office.

Meeting USPTO deadlines       

When seeking an intellectual property attorney to commence representation of a previous pro se Applicant, it is essential that an attorney be contacted with adequate time remaining before the USPTO deadline.  A well-seasoned intellectual property attorney will likely refuse to take on a previous pro se matter when notified only days before the deadline.

If you have questions about intellectual properties and representation before the United States Patent & Trademark Office, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC and we will discuss possibilities for your business and intellectual properties.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Physician Sunshine Laws and Your Business

Physician Sunshine Laws And Your Business

Physician Sunshine Laws and Small Businesses

Does 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7h, known commonly as the “Physician Sunshine Laws-Open Payments” apply to a small business?  Maybe. If Physician Sunshine Laws (Open Payments Laws) are applicable to your business, you may also be surprised how these laws can be applied to your company.

Some States have their own version of physician sunshine laws. In some cases, the State version may apply when the federal version does not.

Many Business Patent Law, PLLC’s clients are involved with the provision of medical devices, supplies, etc. For most Business Patent Law clients, the Physician Sunshine Laws apply to an “applicable manufacturer” that “provides payment or other transfer of value” to a “covered recipient.”

Who Administers Physician Sunshine Laws? (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) is the Federal Agency that Administers Physician Sunshine Laws (Open Payments). 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7h (b) sets forth penalties for failing to file a required report to

Who Needs to Report to Under Physician Sunshine Laws?

Subchapter S Company Examples

Does a Subchapter S Company that Manufactures Surgical Sponges for Use in Operating Rooms and Gives Samples of the Surgical Sponges to Medical, Surgical and Dental Practices Need to Report to

Yes, according to 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7h (e) which reads:

(2) Applicable manufacturer

The term “applicable manufacturer” means a manufacturer of a covered drug, device, biological, or medical supply which is operating in the United States, or in a territory, possession, or commonwealth of the United States.

(4) Covered device

The term “covered device” means any device for which payment is available under subchapter XVIII [Medicare] or a State plan under subchapter XIX or XXI [federal or state plans for medical assistance] (or a waiver of such a plan).

(6) Covered recipient

(A) In general…“covered recipient” means the following: (i) A physician [is a doctor of medicine or osteopathy, a dentist, a doctor of podiatric medicine, a doctor of optometry or a chiropractor – as defined by 42 U.S.C. 1395x (r).] or

(ii) A teaching hospital.

LLC Examples

Does a Limited Liability Company (LLC) Manufacturing and Selling Scalpels Need to Report to

  1. If the LLC makes quid pro quo sales to dentists, physicians and hospitals? No. (There is no transfer of value or gift.)
  2. If the LLC supplies lunches for the surgical office and the employees? Yes. (The lunches were a transfer of value.)

Does an LLC (having one or more covered recipients holding a minority equity ownership interest) that manufactures radio frequency devices for treatment of the human body need to report equity ownership Interests to 

It depends.

  1. If a dentist owns 5% equity in the LLC? Yes.
  2. When the wife of a surgeon owns 10% equity in the LLC? Yes. ***
  3. If a pharmacist owns 5% equity in the LLC? No.
  4. When a physician’s assistant owns 5% equity in the LLC? No.

***42 U.S.C. 1320a-7h (a) reads:

(2) Physician ownership

In addition to the requirement under paragraph (1)(A), on March 31, 2013, and on the 90th day of each calendar year beginning thereafter, any applicable manufacturer or applicable group purchasing organization shall submit to the Secretary, in such electronic form as the Secretary shall require, the following information regarding any ownership or investment interest (other than an ownership or investment interest in a publicly traded security and mutual fund, as described in section 1395nn (c) of this title) held by a physician (or an immediate family member of such physician ([immediate family member] as defined for purposes of section 1395nn (a) of this title)) in the applicable manufacturer or applicable group purchasing organization during the preceding year:…

Determining what you need to do in these situations, and what you are legally required to do, can be difficult. If you have questions about your whether your company needs to file reports with, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC and we will discuss possibilities for your business and intellectual properties.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Entrepreneurs Small Business Startup Advice

Advice for Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses

Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses

In the United States there are approximately 29,000,000 small businesses. Most of these small businesses are founded by one or more entrepreneurs. One US Small Business Administration (SBA) measure for defining a small business is: a small business has 500 or fewer employees. According to the SBA, of these 29 million small businesses, approximately 23,000,000 small businesses do not have any employees.

In the United States, approximately one-half of all jobs are supplied by small businesses, so there is a correlation between more small businesses and increased availability of jobs.

Entrepreneurs Create Small Businesses

First, the entrepreneur conceives the invention/product/service and/or business model. Then that entrepreneur will develop a method to commercialize the invention/product/service. According to the SBA, each year more small businesses “are birthed than die.” Over the years, BPL has witnessed entrepreneurs who fail to realistically approach the problem of anti-commercialization forces that result in the death of small businesses. At the same time, those entrepreneurs who do persist can create small businesses that have 100 or more employees with annual sales of 200 million dollars or more.

The owners of a $200MM small business usually have a group of trusted advisors in place, but what about startups?

Entrepreneur Advice and Startup Considerations

If you are one of the 23 million small business owners, entrepreneurs or start-ups, you should:

  • Think and rethink the invention/product/service
  • Discover competitors and discern how your invention/product/service is different – your market niche is likely narrower than you originally thought
  • Determine how to make a profit in your niche market
  • Seek and listen to the advice of other successful small business owners
  • File Intellectual Property Applications – if your market and price point(s) justify the filings
  • Patents owned by startups provide the owners a limited monopoly to prevent others from making, using, offering for sale or selling their patented invention
  • Investors appear to like small businesses with Intellectual Property portfolios
  • Prepare a business plan
  • Commence assembling your team of trusted advisors – mentors first – then accountants, attorneys, engineers, insurance professionals, investors, lenders, and scientists, etc.

Many small business owners reap large financial rewards when the small businesses are sold to a third party.

Get Help With Your Small Business Venture

Business Patent Law, PLLC would like to assist you with your small business or Intellectual Property needs.  Please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC and we will discuss possibilities for your business.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your Intellectual Property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.