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TPAC Quarterly Meeting Summary – November 2010

Posted by admin on: November 24th, 2010

This week the Trademark Public Advisory Committee (“TPAC”) held its quarterly meeting at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.As with all TPAC meeting, it was both open to the public and webcast. I attended the meeting in person.

TPAC functions as an advisory body to the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO on management and operations issues. This week’s meeting featured lots of information about developments with various functions and offices at the USPTO trademark office and Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. It also featured a special send off for Commissioner for Trademarks Lynne Beresford who recently announced her retirement after a career of more than 30 years at the USPTO, the last five as Commissioner. TPAC Chair John Farmer presented the Commissioner with a plaque noting that she has been the “Best Darn Commissioner”!

Here are some highlights from the discussions at this week’s meeting:

  • The terms of TPAC board members Jim Johnson, Elizabeth Pearce and Bob Anderson (who was appointed in January to an interim term) end in December. Their contributions were recognized by Chairman John Farmer.
  • “Deadwood” post Bose: The Trademark office is working on a rule proposal that will create a pilot program for increased review and Section 8 specimen filings and permit the post registration unit to request additional specimens where appropriate. The Trademark Office will continue studying the “deadwood” and identification issues and is continuing to review and consider other ideas related to the issue.
  • Statistics:
    • Trademark Application filings (measured by number of classes filed) increased 4.9% in FY2010 vs FY 2009
    • 221,090 trademark registrations were issued y the USPTO in FY2010
    • At the end of FY2010, there were approximately 1.6 million live trademark registrations
  • On December 3, the USPTO will be hosting a roundtable and webcast about best practices for electronic trademark application prosecution.
  • “Bullies” study:
    • Following the comment period for the “bullies” study, the USPTO plans to conduct a series of roundtable discussions regarding the issue.
    • The language of the statute requiring the study was modified recently in a bill passed by Congress. The bill,S. 3689 Copyright Cleanup, Clarification, and Corrections Act of 2010, includes the following:
      • Trademark Technical Amendments Act- Section 4(a)(1) of Public Law 111-146 is amended by striking ‘by corporations attempting’ and inserting ‘the purpose of which is’.
      • The USPTO’s Director of Governmental Affairs said he did not believe this changed the study or its scope in any real way
  • The Trademark Office is working on additions to the TEAS online filing system that will permit applicants and attorneys to designate more than one email for correspondence. The purpose is to encourage more communication between Examining Attorneys and the outside bar. Examining Attorneys also continue to be encouraged to use phone calls more often when appropriate.
  • TTAB update from Acting Chief Judge Rogers:
    • The TTAB has finally finished its work regarding the updates to the TTAB Manual of Procedure (TBMP). The changes are now going through final review from the solicitor’s office and OMB. The changes will be published in XML and PDF using a publishing tool which is new for the USPTO. The new publishing tool may also provide for user comments and discussions regarding sections of the manual. It is expected that the new manual will be released in March 2011. Judge Rogers expects the TTAB to attempt to have semi-annual updates to the manual after that.
    • The number of cases submitted for Accelerated Case Review (ACR) is increasing slowly. Five cases were submitted for ACR during the most recent fiscal quarter. The TTAB expects to post more samples and information regarding “plug-and-play” options for using ACR in the near future, and will continue to work with TPAC and outside bar organizations for their input to enhance the use of ACR.
    • The Board plans to publish a request for public comment soon seeking input regarding its desire to increase the Board’s role or  participation in settlement discussions.
    • As of October 31, 2010, there were 150 cases awaiting a final decision from the Board (i.e. fully briefed and, in applicable, argued already)
  • Tele-work”: Recent legislation passed by Congress and signed by the President will allow for further expansion of the USPTO’s “tele-work” projects. Specifically, under the new law employees working more than 50 miles from the USPTO may have their requirements to be at the office for a minimum number of hours per pay period waived. Many USPTO tele-workers will be receiving new laptop computer systems and new VOIP phones in the next year.
  • TDR 2.0:  Those of use at the meeting were shown a live demo of new tools to be expected to be released in beta in January 2011 for TDR. The new version, TDR 2.0 will have a cleaner appearance and will allow for greater access to XML data and other data files and formats in the USTPO records for a particular file. It will allow for third parties to create new tools online to use or package the data with much greater flexibility. It will allow for retrieval of video files which are in the USPTO records as specimens of use. This is essentially the first piece of Trademarks Next Generation (TMNG) computer systems and will integrate with future enhancements.
  • Other IT developments:
    • The TMEP online should be updated in the next few weeks to allow for public comments and discussions. In the first few months of 2011, the TMEP should be fully searchable.
    • The need for a “Captcha” screen prior to accessing TESS has waned as attacks on the system have decreased recently. The USPTO is ready to implement such a system quickly if it becomes necessary.

Documents and presentations from the TPAC meeting can be found on the USPTO website here.

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