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.

manufacturing and business strategy

Business Strategy: Patent Portfolios and Holding Companies

Is it a prudent business strategy for a holding company (Company H) to own the patent assets used by Company A in manufacturing products sold by Company A?

Perhaps, let’s consider the following scenario:

Manufacturing/Distribution Considerations

  • Company A has been in business for several years and has an impressive twenty percent market share for its Widget.
  • The Widget generates one-half of Company A’s profits.
  • Company A has a superb engineering staff that has patented various improvements of the Widget invention creating a profitable patent portfolio for Company A.
  • Company A also generates royalties from its patent license agreements with other companies.

Supply Chain Problems

  • For several years, SupplyCo provided Company A with 99% pure Critical Composition to manufacture its Widgets, but due to temporary utility power supply limitations, Company A was able to deliver only 96% pure Critical Composition to Company A.
  • To meet pressing needs of its customers, Company A shipped 20 tons of Widgets made with 96% pure Critical Composition.
  • During the subsequent six week period, due to the number of injuries to the users of the Widgets manufactured with 96% pure Critical Composition, a national recall of the 20 tons of Widgets was initiated by Company A.
  • Unable to weather the recall and the pending lawsuits, Company A was forced to declare bankruptcy and the Widget patent portfolio was eventually sold in liquidation by the bankruptcy trustee.

Could the Sale of Company A’s Patent Portfolio been Avoided?

Generally – Yes – as long as the transactions between Company A and Company H are arms’ length dealings.

To minimize devaluation of an intellectual property portfolio, management can use one or more holding companies in their business strategy, such as limited liability companies to stabilize the value of the portfolio in the event the “unthinkable” occurs.

Advantages of Using a Holding Company for Intellectual Property

If Company H had owned the Widget patent portfolio and granted Company A an exclusive license to make, use and sale the patented Widgets, then:

  • The Widget patent portfolio would not have been part of Company A’s bankruptcy and liquidated by the bankruptcy trustee.
  • Company H would remain in business and could grant an exclusive license to Company X to make, use and sale the profitable Widgets.
  • Company H could sell the valuable Widget patent portfolio to Company Y.
  • It is likely that royalty income to Company H would be deemed as passive income.
  • It is probable than any sale of the Widget patent portfolio to Company Y would be determined to be a long term capital gain.

Other Considerations for Using a Holding Company as a Business Strategy

  • Better supply and manufacturing quality control – thereby avoiding the Widget recall and the ultimate demise of Company A.
  • Remove Company A’s engineering department from Company A and setup Company E to do business with Company H, identified above, to better take advantage of the tax code’s provisions for intellectual properties.
  • Company E can provide special enticements for its engineering staff to better retain and recruit the best engineering staff that will create subsequent generations of better and more profitable Widgets for licensing by Company H to Company A.
  • Special enticements for the engineering staff apply only to Company E – not Companies H or A.
  • Company E can be easily located in an area where Company E takes maximum advantage of governmental tax incentives.
  • Regardless of what happens to Company A utilizing this business strategy, Companies H and E remain viable entities.

As you can see, there are many different business strategies which o utilize corporate structures to maximize profits and reward the best efforts of employees. This illustration provides only a few of those options.

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

legal contracts online downloaded from the cloud

Legal Contracts From The Cloud?

Legal Contracts Online

Are you considering the use of downloaded legal contracts online? Before you do, you need to know a bit more about the pros and cons of using legal contracts you may find in the cloud.

Business owners, investors and bankers consider Intellectual Properties and the products associated with those Properties to be both intangible and tangible assets. Because these assets are the lifeblood of many companies, it is wise to use a seasoned professional to prepare your Intellectual Property agreements.

Cloud Intellectual Property Contracts

With the intent of saving money, sometimes a business drags a contract for intellectual property out of the Cloud.  On rare occasions, the Cloud strategy may be adequate for the business. (This is especially true if the agreement is never challenged.)

If, however, you pull a contract off the Internet and it IS challenged, you may find yourself in an expensive legal quagmire. More importantly, you may lose the challenge along with your rights to your Intellectual Property. Consider your needs carefully before using legal contracts online.

Patents, Trademark and Copyright Agreements

When Intellectual Property contracts are prepared, each genre has its own eccentricities. For example:

  • Contracts associated with Copyright rights frequently include the phrase “all rights reserved.”
  • In many jurisdictions, the sale or license of Trademark rights must also include the goodwill associated with the Trademark.
  • License agreements flowing from Patent rights should generally include royalty milestones, among other things.

Intellectual properties are unique and the facts associated with each Intellectual Property agreement are also different. A well-drafted contract takes time and expertise to prepare properly. This is not a “one-size-fits-all” legal situation and legal contracts online are usually too general to be of use.Continue reading

Intellectual Property Copyright Law Example

What Types of Property Can Accrue Intellectual Property Rights?

The Building Blocks of Your Business

Like many of their larger Fortune 500® counterparts, most creative companies know intellectual property is their most valuable asset. Intellectual property rights are essential in the legal exclusion of competition. Endeavors thrive because of their intellectual property, and due to Treaties enacted by many of the World’s governments, creative intellectual property owners often find the privileges and monopolies flowing from their Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights to be global in scope.

Protecting Your Products

Creatives with business savvy understand the importance of excluding competitors from competing directly against their product or service. In today’s far-reaching marketplace, only the most resourceful people have any hope of surviving the assault of their cheapest cutthroat competitors.

In the end, most creative start-ups find their intellectual property assets are the lifeblood which sustains them against the onslaught of larger and better financed rivals. History is replete with examples of this reality. At the same time, recent reports demonstrate Wall Street investors reward creative entrepreneurs, who are well-endowed with valuable intellectual property holdings.

Patent rights are excellent assets.

What Property Can Be Protected?

What kind of property is sufficiently creative to be protected by intellectual property rights? Business Patent Law, PLLC offers the following criterion to appraise the potential value of owning Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights.Continue reading