On Monday, the state House of Representatives in Minnesota held an informational hearing on trademark bullying. See video below. This is a welcome development. The panel heard from businesses about the costs and difficulties of defending allegedly overreaching trademark lawsuits.
Since the federal Congress has done little or nothing to consider this issue, this is a welcome development. As detailed on this blog in many posts, in 2010 Congress ordered the USPTO to study “abusive litigation tactics” in the field of trademark. The USPTO sought public comments and in April 2011 issued a report with its findings. Since the study, there have been no public hearings by Congress on the issue. There has been some activity by the USPTO to increase education to the public and business community about trademark issues.
The Study actually made three recommendations (while finding no real problem): (1) urge pro bono efforts from private sector, (2) urge more CLE (continuing legal education) programs on trademark litigation issues for attorneys, and (3) enhance outreach from several government agencies. To my knowledge, nearly two years after the Study, very little if anything has been done regarding (1) and (2).
So to see Minnesota House of Representatives taking on this issue is refreshing. Small businesses are critical to the vitality of the US economy. If Congress is unwilling to help these businesses deal with unfair trademark litigation tactics (which I believe do exist and could be rectified at least in part, though reasonable people could disagree), others must take up the cause. The SBA, US Chamber of Commerce and other small business advocates have all been largely silent on these issues as well.
Thank you to the House of Minnesota for taking on this issue!