Despite the cliché, 2020 was unprecedented in many ways; it featured the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns, quarantines, masks, and social distancing, as well as protests in the street, a presidential election, economic volatility, and much more. And trademarks were along for the ride.
COVID-19. The year’s biggest story impacted trademarks in several ways: USPTO operations continued virtually despite the IT challenges brought on by COVID-19 lockdowns. Despite a dip in filings during the spring, the pace of filings continued to grow (including an influx from China); the number of applications filed and registrations granted in FY2020 both grew to record numbers and there are now more than 2 million active US trademark registrations!
Black Lives Matter-themed trademark filings. The summer protests following the killing of George Floyd led to dozens of trademark filings related to protest topics. Like coronavirus filings, many or most will likely be refused as common phrases or for failing to function as indicators of source.
Established brands change names. Never before have some many brands backed away from names or name origins that were offensive (see Uncle Ben’s, Aunt Jemima, Washington Redskins, and Cleveland Indians). Changing decades of history and legal rights is not a simple task, as demonstrated by the football team’s temporary (or not?) switch to Washington Football Team.
New USPTO fees effective January 2, 2021. Quite likely the largest trademark fee increase in U.S. history went into effect on January 2, 2021, at the USPTO. I remain very concerned about the impact of these fee changes and increases on small businesses. For more details, see my post.
Scams continue, spreading to email and text. Trademark owners are advised to remain vigilant and carefully examine all solicitations regarding their trademarks and ignore those for meaningless publications and questionable renewal services. For more, see Is This a Trademark Scam?®.
Looking ahead to 2021. The main story I will be following will be the impact of the fee increases, and whether it results in measurable drops in number of new applications from small businesses, the percentages of registrations renewed, and/or the numbers of appeals filed.
Wishing you success, health and happiness in 2021,