Trademark owners and attorneys have been fortunate that the USPTO has had an online system for more than 10 years that allows for new applications, renewals, assignments, and much more to be submitted electronically. In fact, the USPTO also saves money (human resources) from the system and now discourages paper filings by charging more for them.
The online systems, however, have not had an overhaul in quite some time (although one is scheduled to be in the works through the “Trademarks Next Generation” process). Some changes in the interim could greatly improve the system for users. Many of these, I believe, would not require an overhaul of the current TEAS (Trademark Electronic Application System).
- Better efficiency in the wording of the filing receipts and application forms. There are so many disclaimers and instructions that the forms, and filing receipts, are lengthy and cluttered and difficult to decipher.
- Better formatting of filing receipt PDFs. For example, including the USPTO logo and nicer formatted time/date stamp would improve the optics. Feature a TSDR link to the application/registration record at issue for easy reference. Include the mark drawing image. Make the receipt overall clearer and easier to read. \
- Allow the text windows on the TEAS response forms to expand so that when inputting translations, disclaimers, mark descriptions, and the like the user can see what they have typed.
- When filing a response, list the issues that were raised in the Office Action (by pulling the headers, or some data about the Office Action) so the Applicant can make sure they are responding to all the issues.
- When generating an email for electronic signature, provide better formatting and instructions. Attorneys have to make their own instructions and/or avoid the USPTO’s auto-generated email altogether.
- Upgrade the payment systems to allow attorneys to send a link directly to a client to have the client make payment themselves. This would simplify accounting for many so that the client fees don’t need to pass through a firm trust account which costs the law firm money and time to deal with.
- Mobile formatting for TESS and TSDR so that records can easily be viewed and searched online from mobile devices.
- Replace the wording on the main USPTO.gov trademark webpage that reads “Apply online” with “Online filings” or something similar — this frequently used link contains all online filings, not just applications.
- Information that applies only to certification marks appears all the time and is confusing; it should only appear when relevant.
- Provide easier and better payment receipts, so that it is easier (and more attractive) for attorneys to show clients what USPTO fees were paid.
- Online filing declarations should know whether the application is based on Section 1(b) or 1(a) and provide the proper language – not both versions which confuses and clutters.
I have many other such ideas, these are just some of the simpler ones, many of which should not require an entirely new platform but somewhat simple modifications to the current platform. I hope that the USPTO will soon seek submissions of more ideas to improve the online filings, and hold a public round table on the topic.