Post Trademark Registration Junk Mail

Post Trademark Registration: Beware Fraud, Scam & Junk Mail

What is a Post-Trademark Registration Junk Mail Barrage?

In part, the post-Trademark Registration junk mail barrage is a type of direct mail marketing. (In the US, the estimated response rate for direct mail campaigns is 3.5% to 4.24%. Thus, direct mail can be an inexpensive way to obtain a customer and/or make a sale.) Direct mail campaigns continue to creep into postal boxes, some of which are honest and aboveboard and others that are not.

Following your Trademark Registration, your company may receive legitimate-looking “bills” or “invoices” by mail that appear to be related to your trademark registration. Those may be a scam. Here’s what you need to know:

A Trademark Registration Scenario 

Trademark Registrations are part of the Public Record.

Our marketing department initially filed three US Trademark Applications. About a year after filing the US Trademark Applications for the “Yes,” “No,” and “Maybe” Marks, our Louisville Company received three Trademark Registrations from the United States Trademark Office. Marketing and sales quickly added the ® to our labels and continued marketing and selling our products.

Our company’s protocol has been that the mailroom sorts the incoming mail and sends anything appearing to be an invoice to accounting for payment. Accounting was trained to look for suspicious invoices.

Within weeks of receiving our US Trademark Applications, unbeknownst to management, accounting paid several invoices that appeared to be related to United States Trademark Office business.

Those invoices appeared to be associated the US Trademark Office, but were not.

Types of Post Trademark Registration Solicitations

As a general rule, the US Trademark Office will not utilize the postal service to solicit payments from the Trademark Owner.

Under Title 15 of the United States Code, USPTO post Registration fees become due at five years, nine years, nineteen years, twenty nine years, etc. Any USPTO fee requested by a third party not associated with these dates is suspicious.

Solicitations attempting to induce the Trademark owner to pay fees may come in many ways. (Some third parties solicit the transfer of funds outside the United States, others solicit funds to roaming US postal box locations and some have apparent legitimate street addresses.)

  • Some solicitations are for actual services, albeit not those likely needed by the Trademark owner. (These are like the old yellow page ads for a regional rather than a local telephone book.)
  • Other direct mail campaigns induce the Trademark owner to actually pay for something in a country outside the United States while making the payment appear to be for something in the United States.
  • Still others encourage payment for some service in the United States, where the service is not actually needed to maintain the Trademark Registration in full force and effect.

If you have a question about the post-Trademark Registration barrage of mailed materials and junk mail, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC., for guidance.

If you have a topic or question you would like Business Patent Law, PLLC to address in the blog, please send us an email.

Business Patent Law, PLLC provides intellectual property and business counsel for businesses and companies.  If you need assistance, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC.

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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.

Observations

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.

Securing Your Trademark Service Mark - Evidence of Use for Trademarks

Evidence of Use for Trademarks

Do I Have to Use My Product or Trademark in Commerce First?

Yes. Before the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) grants a Registration, you must provide evidence of use of the Mark in commerce.

The Statutory Law

15 United States Code 1051 (U.S.C.) (a) (2) reads, “The application shall include specification of the applicant’s domicile and citizenship, the date of the applicant’s first use of the mark, the date of the applicant’s first use of the mark in commerce, the goods in connection with which the mark is used, and a drawing of the mark.”

15 U.S.C. 1127, in part, reads, “The word “commerce” means all commerce which may lawfully be regulated by Congress.”

Establishing Interstate or International Use

Only interstate or international commerce can be lawfully regulated by Congress. Thus, interstate or international use of your product is required to secure a federal Registration.

Example Scenarios

Your Louisville, Kentucky company, only sells gizmos (bearing your Trademark) to a Lexington Kentucky corporation. In this example, there is only intrastate commerce. Since Congress does not regulate intrastate commerce, your Trademark would not be a subject for a federal Registration.

On the other hand, if your Cincinnati Ohio company sells gizmos (bearing your Trademark) to corporations in Columbus, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; and Nashville, Tennessee, then you conduct interstate commerce. Since Congress regulates interstate commerce, your Trademark would eligible for a federal Registration.

Likewise, if your Lexington, Kentucky company sells your gizmos (bearing your Trademark) to retailers in Canada and Mexico, then you conduct international commerce. Congress regulates international commerce, so your Trademark would be eligible for federal Registration.

What is Acceptable Evidence of Use to Establish Interstate or International Use?

For either Trademarks or Service Marks, invoices and other business records showing sales across state lines or international borders are useful in establishing interstate and/or international commerce. Here are a few more examples of acceptable evidence of use for both Trademarks and Service marks:

 Examples of Evidence for Trademarks:

  • Photographs of the Trademark, when attached to the goods and/or the packaging containing the goods
  • Photographs of displays of the goods, where the displays and the goods bear the Trademark
  • Screen shots of websites for the sale of goods where the website and the goods bear the Trademark
  • Screen shots of websites for the streaming or downloading of software products, where the website and the software goods bear the Trademark
  • Copies of audio commercials advertising the goods bearing your Trademark
  • Photographs of promotional giveaways advertising the goods bearing your Trademark

Examples of Evidentiary Specimens for Service Marks:

  • Photographs associating the Service Mark with the services rendered
  • Video and/or audio commercials associating the Service Mark with the services rendered
  • Printed publications and brochures associating the Service Mark with the services rendered
  • Letterhead and business cards associating the Service Mark with the services rendered
  • Photographs of promotional giveaways associating the Service Mark with the services rendered

What Digital Formats Should I Use To Provide Evidence?

Do you plan to submit digital proof of use to the USPTO? Then you need to know that the office prefers PDF or .jpg samples. So, be sure to submit all digitally filed evidentiary specimens in one of these two formats.

What If I Need More Trademark Help or Legal Advice?

When you need help to secure, manage and/or enforce your Trademarks or Service Marks, contact Business Patent Law, PLLC. Business Patent Law, PLLC provides intellectual property and business counsel for businesses and companies 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.

Intent to Use Applications - Service Marks and Trademarks

Intent to Use Applications

Intent to Use Applications for Registration

There are two kinds of federal Trademark/Service Mark Applications:

  1. Intent to Use Applications
  2. In Use Applications

In the United States, the Mark must have interstate or international use before a federal Registration is granted.

Clients may opt to use the Intent to Use route to establish a “constructive” date of first use (the filing date) with the grant of the Registration. This constructive date of first use can benefit the Applicant/Owner of the Mark in situations where there are conflicts between competing Applications for Registration.

The Statutory Law for Intent to Use Applications

The United States code allows an applicant to file an Application for Registration before the Mark has interstate or international usage. That section of the code (15 United States Code 1051) reads:

(b)Application for bona fide intention to use trademark

(1)  A person who has a bona fide intention, under circumstances showing the good faith of such person, to use a trademark in commerce may request registration of its trademark on the principal register hereby established by paying the prescribed fee and filing in the Patent and Trademark Office an application and a verified statement, in such form as may be prescribed by the Director.

When filing of the Application, the Applicant must verify the following:

  • The Applicant believes that he/she/it is entitled to use the Mark in commerce
  • The Applicant has a bona fide intention of using the Mark in commerce
  • That the facts recited in the Application are accurate
  • That no other person is using an identical form in connection with goods (services) or in a near enough resemblance that it is likely to cause confusion, mistake, or to deceive

There is a USPTO filing fee for filing the Intent to Use Application and the filing of an Application for Registration does not guarantee that Registration will be granted.

The USPTO email Notice of Allowance

After filing of the Intent to Use Application, there may be one or more Office Actions between the Examiner and the Applicant before the Examiner issues or declines a Notice of Allowance.

If the Examiner approves the Intent to Use Application, the Applicant will receive an email from the USPTO that indicates the following (among other things):

  • Notice of Allowance (NOA)
  • Issue Date
  • U.S. Serial Number
  • Mark
  • Docket/Reference Number

If no opposition was filed for this published Application, the issue date of this NOA establishes the due date for the filing of a Statement of Use (SOU) or a Request for Extension of Time to file a Statement of Use (Extension Request).  WARNING: A SOU that meets all legal requirements must be filed before a Registration Certificate can issue.  Please read below for important information regarding the Applicant’s pending six (6) month deadline.

The Six Month Deadline

An applicant has six (6) MONTHS from the NOA issue date to file either:

  • An SOU, if the Applicant is using the mark in commerce. OR
  • An Extension Request. (Required if the applicant is not yet using the mark in commerce.)

NOTE: If an Extension Request is filed, a new request must be filed every six (6) months until the SOU is filed.  The applicant may file a total of five (5) extension requests.  Warning: An SOU may not be filed more than thirty-six (36) months from when the NOA issued.  The deadline for filing is always calculated from the issue date of the NOA.

Post Notice of Allowance Procedures 

Until the Mark has interstate or international usage and the Registration is granted, Applicant must file either:

  • A Statement of Use; or
  • A Request for an Extension of Time in which to file a Statement of Use

Support of a Request for an Extension of Time to file a Statement of Use

You do not have to show “good cause” for the first request, but in order to support your request for an extension after that, you must include a showing of good cause. The showing of good cause must include a statement of the Applicant’s ongoing efforts to use of the Mark in commerce.

Efforts to use the Mark in commerce may include:

  • product or service research or development
  • market research
  • manufacturing activities
  • promotional activities
  • steps to acquire distributors
  • steps to obtain required governmental approval, or
  • other similar activities

An Applicant can file a maximum of five Requests for an Extension of Time to file a Statement of Use.

Need assistance with your Intent To Use Application?

If you need legal assistance in preparing Trademark Applications, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC. Business Patent Law, PLLC provides intellectual property and business counsel for businesses and companies.

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.

International Classifications for Trademarks

International Classifications for Trademarks

The Nice Treaty 

The United States is a party to the June 15, 1957 Nice Treaty and its subsequent amendments. A US Trademark or Service Mark Registration is granted in one or more of the forty-five International Classifications of the Nice Treaty.

  • There are 34 International Classifications for Trademarks
  • There are 11 International Classifications for Service Marks

For the rest of this article, Trademarks or Service Marks will be referred to as “Marks.” Under Title 15 of the United States Code, the applicant must demonstrate interstate or international use before a federal Mark Registration is granted.

In the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), a government filing fee is required for each International Class in which an applicant seeks federal Registration. Most companies do not register their Marks in all International Classifications.

How International Classifications Influence the Registration Procedure

As a general rule, US Trademark Examiners will not allow an Application of a Mark to become a Registration if there is a “likelihood of confusion” between the Application’s Mark and another Registration or pending Application for Registration. The examination of the Applicant’s Mark may be limited to prior Registrations and Applications in the same International Class.

An Applicant can be granted a US Registration in some International Classes, but not in other International Classes.

Influence over Registration

In this hypothetical example, we will consider a brand called GoodBad. The company that produces the GoodBad product is seeking registration of its Mark. Let’s review the following possible scenarios:

If GoodBad is a Razor Brand

1.) Applicant seeks registration of the – GoodBad – Mark for razors in International Class 8 (Hand Tools & Implements) and there is a prior Registration of the – Good – Mark for razors in International Class 8.

The Trademark Examiner would probably find a “likelihood of confusion” between the – GoodBad – Application and the existing – Good – Registration and deny registration of Applicant’s – GoodBad – Mark.

2.) Applicant seeks registration of the – GoodBad – Mark for razors in International Class 8 (Hand Tools & Implements) and there is a prior Registration of the – Good – Mark for scalpels in International Class 10 (Surgical, Medical & Dental Apparatus).

The Trademark Examiner would probably not find a “likelihood of confusion” between the – GoodBad – Application and the – Good – Registration and allow Applicant’s – GoodBad – Mark to mature into a Registration.

If GoodBad is a Beverage Brand

1.)  Applicant seeks registration of the – GoodBad – Mark for teas in International Class 30 (Staple Foods) and there is a prior Registration of the – GoodBad – Mark for blouses, coats, dresses, jackets, pants and shoes in International Class 25 (Clothing).

The Trademark Examiner would probably not find a “likelihood of confusion” between the – GoodBad – Application for tea and the – GoodBad – Registration for clothing and would allow Applicant’s – GoodBad – Mark to mature into a Registration.

2.) Applicant seeks registration of the – GoodBad – Mark for coffees and teas in International Class 30 (Staple Foods) and there is a multibillion-dollar company that owns prior Registrations of the – GoodBad – Mark for:

  • Facial makeups in International Class 3 (Cosmetics & Cleaning Preparations);
  • Pharmaceutical compositions used in cosmetology and dermatology treatments in International Class 5 (Pharmaceuticals);
  • Custom-made bedroom, dining room and living room furnishings in International Class 20 (Furniture);
  • Blouses, coats, dresses, jackets, pants and shoes in International Class 25 (Clothing); and
  • Wines in International Class 33 (Wines & Spirits).

In this scenario, some Trademark Examiners would allow the Applicant’s – GoodBad – Mark for coffees and teas to be published for Opposition while other Trademark Examiners would deny registration. Should Applicant’s – GoodBad – Mark be published for Opposition, there is a high probability that the multibillion-dollar company would file either a USPTO Opposition or Cancellation Proceeding against Applicant’s – GoodBad – Mark.

If GoodBad is a Service Brand

Applicant seeks registration of the – GoodBad – Mark for the provision of continuing education services for physicians, surgeons and other medical personnel in International Class 41 (Education & Entertainment Services) and there is a prior Registration of the – GoodBad – Mark in International Class 36 (Insurance & Financial Services) owned by a multistate national bank that also specializes in the provision of accounting services for physicians and surgeons under the – GoodBad – Mark.

Although each – GoodBad – Mark is associated with a different International Class, it is highly probable the Trademark Examiner would find a “likelihood of confusion” between the – GoodBad – Application and the – GoodBad – Registration and deny registration of Applicant’s – GoodBad – Mark.

Need Help With International Classifications?

If you have questions about your company’s Marks or you seek to register a Mark, 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.

Federal Registration of Trademarks

Federal Registration – Trademarks/Service Marks

Is Federal Registration of My Company’s Trademark/Service Mark required?

No.  However, if the company’s Trademark/brand is not registered, it becomes more difficult to enforce the company’s rights associated with its brand. If a federal Registration is not procured, then the owner of the Trademark/Service Mark must rely on State or common law precepts to prove infringement.

Federal Registration Advantages Include:

  • The symbol “®” can be placed in proximity to the Trademark/Service Mark giving notice the Trademark is registered in the United Patent and Trademark Office
  • Substantive and procedural rights attributable to federal jurisdiction (rather than using a state’s law to control adversarial proceedings)
  • Prevention of the registration of another Trademark/Service Mark in the United States Patent and Trademark Office that is confusingly similar
  • Creates a basis for international Madrid Protocol Trademarks/Service Marks
  • Constructive notice of ownership and date of first use in interstate or international commerce

Wise Business Owners Procure Federal Registration Because:

  • Over time, the Trademarks/Service Marks can mature into the company’s most valuable asset
  • Trademarks/Service Marks are foundational components of most franchise agreements
  • Trademark/Service Mark licenses can provide a royalty stream for the registrant
  • If your company does not procure a United States Trademark, another company can procure a federal Registration of your company’s Trademark and limit your company’s usage of its brand to the geographic areas in which your company’s use was prior to the registering  company’s use of your brand name
  • After five years of continuous use, your company’s federal Registration becomes incontestable, unless one or more of nine statutory defenses can be proved by the party contesting your company’s United States Trademark/Service Mark

If you have questions about your company’s Trademarks/Service Marks, 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.