the Trademark Resource for Start-Ups, Business Owners, Marketing Professionals, In-House Counsel, and Attorneys

Trademark Registration

Ivy growing on a wall

In my last blog post, I discussed how difficult it is to rely on common law trademark rights because of the requirement to prove market penetration. Continuing with this same theme, it doesn’t get any easier after you’ve proven market penetration. After you’ve established common law trademark rights by proving market penetration in one or more markets, your next task is to try to expand your common law trademark rights beyond just the markets in which you were able to prove market penetration. This takes us to the common law principle of natural zone of expansion. Unfortunately, federal courts are pretty stingy when it comes to a common law trademark owner’s natural zone of expansion, leading once again to the inescapable conclusion that you should federally register your trademark if you can.

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Photo of man pushing rock uphill symbolizing uphill battle with common law trademarks

There a real advantages to federally registering your trademark. Unfortunately, those advantages are usually described in vague legal terms that may not mean much. The practical import is missing, and the benefit of federal registration cheapened. For example, one of the benefits of federal registration that gets touted is constructive nationwide use. So what? What does that even mean anyway? And why is it so great? Because if you don't have a federal trademark registration and you are relying only on your common law trademark rights, you are going to have to deal with a big freaking headache: proving market penetration in order to establish your common law trademark rights in a geographic area.

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A picture of a California beach with text that reads "How to file a California trademark"

Although most businesses opt to file a federal trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO"), not every trademark owner qualifies for federal registration. The trademark owner may not be making use of its mark in interstate commerce. There may be an existing federal registration preventing the trademark owner from registering at the federal level. Or maybe the trademark owner wants to take a belt and suspenders approach to its trademark portfolio and support its federal registration with a California state trademark registration. Whatever the reason—how do you file a trademark application in California? continue reading→

15 USC Section 1121(b)

Like many trademark practitioners, I cite Section 39(a) of the Lanham Act, aka 15 U.S.C. § 1121(a), routinely in jurisdictional statements. And every time I take a refresher and peek at the statutory section, Section (b) piques my interest. So what's the story on § 1121(b)? Turns out, it's a short story with little case law interpreting it. continue reading→

Disqualification of Trademark Attorney

Trademark applications need to be signed. Other documents in the trademark prosecution process—like statements of use, § 8 declarations of use, § 9 renewals—need to be signed. And the rules are clear that the attorney of record can sign those documents on behalf of the applicant.

Yet, many trademark attorneys have a strict policy against signing any trademark application documents on behalf of their clients. That policy is based on the concern that, by signing such documents, the attorney can be considered a witness and might even be disqualified. But how much of a concern should this really be? Turns out it is probably very unlikely that anything will come of it. continue reading→