The following is an edited transcript of my video What Information Becomes Public in a Trademark Application?
An important topic that I get asked about frequently is, “What information from my trademark filing will be public?” I’ll get to explaining why it’s important, but first I want to say that the easiest answer is to presume that all of it will become public because there is a chance that most–if not all of it–will be public. We’ll get to the good side of that. But obviously, the bad side is that it’s a risk. There are addresses, phone numbers, emails, and names.
Those things are part of the public record because you’re filing with a public government agency that has a database and search engine that can easily access all of the trademark application information that’s out there. Some of the specifics that are always going to be in the public record are the ownership of a trademark application, whether it’s a person, corporation, entity, or LLC that will be in the record. And somebody has to sign the declaration associated with the application. That person’s name and title will also be in the public record, or in the documents that are part of the public record.
The address that’s associated with the owner will be in the public record. And there were some changes to the USPTO rules in the last few years that actually require applicants to indicate a domicile address and not a P.O. Box, or shared office mailboxes, etc. type of address. However, there is an option to mask the domicile residential or office address, and have a separate public showing address that can be a P.O. Box, but you have to know how to do that. There’s some nuance to it. And then you want to make sure that the record accurately reflects what you intended to share and what you intended to mask.
Phone numbers that go into applications are in the public record. I never put an applicant or client’s phone number into the public record if I can avoid it. Law firm phone number, great, no problem, but because we know this information is in the public record and–here’s the real thing–because we know that scammers are out there and they know that the trademark records are out there and contain this wealth of contact information, putting phone numbers is not a great idea. There is some benefit to be able to have the examiner potentially pick up the phone and call, but the risks far outweigh that benefit. So I would never recommend putting an applicant’s phone number into the public record.
The evidence of use that’s filed in an application is also part of the public record. So whatever evidence is filed, whether it’s a webpage, photo, brochure, flyer, or an invoice, applicants should know and be cognizant that that document is in the public records and it’s fairly easy to search and find it and pull it. If it’s appropriate, there might be times when you want to redact something in those evidence filings that are being submitted. So those are the risks and the cautions. And again, it relates a lot to the scammers that are out there for the public information.
The flip side of that–the benefit–is that trademark applications and all of their contents are easily accessible. And those are very useful sometimes when digging into the history of a registration, or a business, or a possible trademark dispute, and being able to see the evidence, the documents, the addresses, the corporations, and all of those things. So there is a reason and a benefit to them being in the public records, but it’s best to go into it knowing what will be there and why, so you can use caution as needed.
One last tip: just because of these cautions, I would not recommend that you skip filing for your trademark application. If you have concerns about the information that might be public, talk to an attorney, work with them to address those concerns, but do not let that stand in the way of taking advantage of the protections that come from registering a trademark.29