Posts Tagged ‘TTAB’

This week, the Supreme Court issued what is likely the most important trademark opinion in years. In may take a few years before we know the full ramifications of the Court’s decision  that  TTAB proceedings have a preclusive effect in later District Court actions when the proper conditions are met. I will post more about my opinion of the opinion in the coming days (but my prediction after the hearing – which can be found here – was fairly accurate).

In the interim, here is a roundup of stories and blog posts from others around the web with links and key takeaways:

  • TTABlog (“The Court remanded the case to the Eight Circuit, directing it to apply the following rule: “So long as the other ordinary elements of issue preclusion are met, when the usages adjudicated by the TTAB are materially the same as those before the district court, issue preclusion should apply.””)
  • Ron Coleman / Likelihood of Confusion (The decision “may very well have implications for some of the pending litigation involving that popular topic of late, Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act.”)
  • SCOTUSBlog (“The Court apparently designed its decision Tuesday in B&B Hardware v. Hargis Industries to answer as narrow a question as possible”)
  • JD Supra article (“Parties in TTAB proceedings should be keenly aware that if they concurrently file a lawsuit in district court, the determinations made by the TTAB could be binding on the district court, which could have significant consequences to the arguably more important district court litigation. In most instances, seeking to stay the TTAB proceeding pending a determination of the district court litigation would likely be the safest and most efficient course of action.”)
  • PATENTLYO (“For patent attorneys, the case will have an obvious impact on the interplay between the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and parallel district court litigation.  The same reasoning that led the Supreme Court to its decision in B&B will apply equally with determinations made during inter partes and post grant review proceedings.  Importantly, issue preclusion applies to individual decisions of fact or law and thus may be important for sub-issues such as claim construction, scope and content of the prior art, level of skill in the art, etc.”)
  • The Recorder (“Whatever the outcome, inter partes proceedings before the TTAB are not likely to be treated the same after B&B Hardware. Trademark owners and applicants should anticipate the potential of TTAB decisions having some preclusive effect in subsequent trademark litigation and should conduct their TTAB proceedings accordingly.”)
  • Butzel Long
  • Collen IP (“Now, more than ever, trademark owners who believe that another party is infringing its trademark rights should consider commencing a trademark opposition proceeding by filing a notice of opposition with the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.”)
  • Barnes & Thornburg (“if the TTAB does not consider the marketplace usage of the parties’ marks, the TTAB’s decision should have no later preclusive effect in a suit where actual use in the marketplace is the paramount issue”)
  • Crowell Moring (“Major exceptions notwithstanding, the Court’s decision in B&B Hardware has elevated the potential importance of TTAB proceedings, once largely thought to be critical only to the right to register a mark and not the right to use that mark”)
  • Pattishall IP Blog (“An unintended consequence of the Supreme Court’s opinion may be protracted litigation in the lower courts about the preclusive effect of TTAB decisions.”
  • Incontestable (Naresh Kilaru / Finnegan) (“In view of the Court’s decision, it remains to be seen whether parties will now choose to go “all out” at the TTAB with the knowledge that the decision may be accorded preclusive effect, or whether they will skip the TTAB altogether and head straight to district court. It means that TTAB decisions should be appealed to preserve factual issues. And district courts will have to wrestle with the question of what it means for the TTAB to consider “marketplace usage.” As a strategic matter, TTAB plaintiffs may want to think twice about asserting common law rights outside the scope of their pleaded registrations or introducing other evidence of marketplace use, so as to preserve their ability to bring an infringement action later.”)
  • Duets Blog (“Before instituting a cause of action against another party, trademark owners will have to engage in some pre-litigation planning to position the case in the most beneficial forum.”)
  • Goodwin Proctor (“the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Goodwin Procter client B&B Hardware, Inc., in a decision that may change the way trademark cases are litigated.”)
  • Kaye Scholer (“We expect that lower courts will grapple with these issues for many years to come.”)
  • Fenwick & West (“This decision unquestionably raises the stakes for TTAB proceedings. While both the majority opinion and concurrence note that many TTAB decisions may not bind district courts, this may offer little comfort to trademark litigants deciding on a litigation strategy.”)
  • Morrison & Foerster (“The Supreme Court’s decision will likely raise the stakes in opposition and cancellation proceedings before the TTAB.”)
  • World Trademark Review (“Ultimately, the issue of preclusion will continue to play out in the courts and it remains to be seen what level of impact this decision will ultimately have. However, it does give trademark counsel plenty to think about in terms of current practice strategies.”)
  • Cooley LLP (Going forward, to get the benefits of issue preclusion in a later infringement case, plaintiffs in TTAB opposition and cancellation cases may increasingly offer evidence of actual use of the marks in the marketplace, like courts consider in deciding likelihood of confusion. That may tend to make TTAB adversarial proceedings more complicated, as plaintiffs build more extensive evidentiary records with a subsequent infringement action in mind. But it also may streamline the ensuing infringement litigation.”)
  • Ropes & Gray (“As for the TTAB, it may decide to better harmonize its analysis with that used by the federal courts by (for example) giving greater weight to how the marks it considers are used in the marketplace.”)
  • Husch Blackwell (“No doubt the real impact of the B&B decision will materialize over time as lower courts feel their way through its teachings. For now, parties involved in proceedings before the PTO’s TTAB should reevaluate their approaches to either prosecuting or defending that action to place themselves in the best possible position, whatever the outcome.”)

Anatomy of a Motion for Sanctions

Posted by ipelton on: March 12th, 2015

In an opposition or cancellation case at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) it is sometime necessary to bring a Motion to Sanctions when a Motion to Compel has already been brought and the Board’s instructions are not complied with and a party continues to fail to meet its discovery obligations.

No two motions for sanctions will look the same, because the history and circumstances will always vary from case to case.

Below is a sample Motion for Sanctions at the TTAB from a real case (publicly available here). Sanctions can include dismissal of the entire case.

For more details about sanctions, see the TTAB Manual of Procedure (TBMP) Section 527.

Sample Motion for Sanctions (TTAB)

Anatomy of a Motion to Compel

Posted by ipelton on: March 10th, 2015

In an opposition or cancellation case at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) it is sometime necessary to bring a Motion to Compel to deal with a party failing to meet its discovery obligations.

Below is a sample Motion to Compel at the TTAB from a real case (publicly available here).

For more details about motions to compel, see the TTAB Manual of Procedure (TBMP) Sections 400 (Discovery) and 523 (Motion to Compel Disclosure or Discovery).


Sample Motion to Compel – Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB)

Audio of Federal Circuit Oral Argument case: THE SLANTS

Posted by ipelton on: January 9th, 2015

This morning, the United States Court of Appeal for the Federal Circuit heard oral arguments regarding the trademark application for THE SLANTS. The TTAB had denied registration of the mark as disparaging under Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act in a precedential opinion October of 2013. See TTAB opinion here.

The argument today touched on multiple issues, including First Amendment issues. Of course, the REDSKINS trademark registration cancellation decision from the TTAB has been appealed to a District Court in Virginia and the issues raised in that appeal also include the Constitution and first amendment.

The audio of today’s hearing in THE SLANTS case (In Re Tam) at the Federal Circuit can be heard here:

United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit


Top Trademark TrendsSM of 2014

By Erik M. Pelton & Associates® – The Nontraditional Trademark Lawyers®

Once again, trademarks and pop culture collided frequently in 2014. For example, more than 50 “JOHNNY ____” applications were filed this year as quarterback Johnny Manziel was drafted by the Cleveland Browns including JOHNNY MAN’Z ALE, JOHNNY CLEVELAND, JOHNNY HOCKEY, JOHNNY PIGSKIN, and JOHNNY BENCHWARMER. Another football trademark story made big news as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) ruled in a case to cancel the Redskins trademark registrations.  Other big news stories, like the ebola outbreak, also were reflected the trademark filings. Another remarkable trademark story from 2014 was the Supreme Court, for the first time in several years, hearing a trademark case (B&B Hardware, Inc. v. Hargis Industries, Inc.). The case involves the differences in proceedings before the USPTO’s trademark appeal board and the Federal courts, and the Court will likely rule on it in the spring of 2015. Here is a summary of the year’s major trademark related developments:

Washington, DC Professional Football Team Trademark. In June, the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board granted a request filed by several Native Americans to cancel those trademarks that feature the term “Redskins.” However, the decision is now on appeal and the ongoing dispute, which has lasted for over a decade, continues. Following the decision, many other applicants filed trademark applications for potential team names, such as WASHINGTON AMERICANS, WASHINGTON NATIVES, WASHINGTON FEDSKINS, WASHINGTON WARRIORS.

Popular Terms: Selfie, Drone, Weed, Vape, and more. Once again, the most popular words and phenomena in pop culture made their way into many trademark filings. The 2014 word of the year, according to Oxford English Dictionary, is “Vape.”  And business owners certainly agree as more than 300 applications were filed at the USPTO featuring the word VAPE. Other popular trademark terms in 2014 included SELFIE (140+ applications), DRONE (100+ applications), and WEED (150+ applications). More than 100 filings in 2014 contain the “#” hashtag symbol. Online and environmental branding trends from the last few years contained in 2014 as SOCIAL remained popular (400+ applications), along with CLOUD (700+ applications), while more than 1,000 applications were filed featuring GREEN.

Logo Trends. As even more business and advertising moves online and via mobile devices, logos are trending to simpler smaller designs, which make them faster to load and easier to see on mobile screens. Terrific logo redesigns from popular online businesses include those from FOURSQUARE , PayPal, and AirBnB.

 PayPal Logo

Ebola. The spread of ebola was certainly a big story in 2014. At the USPTO, there were several applications filed for ebola related treatments and products including ZMAPP (Pharmaceutical preparations for treatment of Ebola virus infections), EBOLAHOL (antiviral disinfectant products for Ebola), EBOLAWAY (Antibacterial and antiviral sprays and wipes for eliminating bacteria and virii), and EBOLA OUTBREAK MAP.

Controversial Trademark Filings. The ALS Association rode a wave of viral social media activity last summer to raise more than $100 million dollars. Most of the activity was the result of the “ice bucket challenge.” The Association made quite a stir later in the summer when it applied to register four trademarks featuring the phrase, including ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE and #ICEBUCKETCHALLENGE. However, following a rapid backlash questioning the charitable intent and legality of claiming sole ownership and control of the phrase, the Association withdrew the applications.  Other questionable trademark filings included names related to tragedies, such as the MH17 and MH370 airplanes.  Last year’s trends noted the numerous BOSTON STRONG trademark application filings; as of today all but one of them has been abandoned.

Trademark scams continue. Despite one law firm’s successful quest to shutdown an operation preying on trademark holders, such scams from numerous companies offering negligible or questionable services remain prolific. Join a petition to “Request USPTO Investigation and Action Regarding Trademark Scams” here.

What to look for in 2015. Expect even more trademark disputes to go viral via social media, building upon the success of EAT MORE KALE fending off a claim from Chik-fil-A and Eat Mor Chikin. Also expect the number of nontraditional trademark filings to continue to grow as more brands protect colors, sounds, shapes, and other indicators of source featuring more than words or logos.


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© 2014 Erik M. Pelton & Associates, PLLC. All Rights Reserved.

About Erik M. Pelton: Erik Pelton® has been making trademarks bloom since 1999® as the founder of Erik M. Pelton & Associates, PLLC®, a boutique trademark law firm in Falls Church, Virginia. The firm has registered more than 2,000 U.S. trademarks for clients and has represented dozens of parties in trademark disputes. In 2014, Erik presented on trademark and branding issues to a variety of audiences, including the American Bar Association and a junior high school class.

Prior issues of Top Trademark TrendsSM