Roundtable Recap – USPTO Trademark Pendency Rates
On January 15, 2024, the Office of Advocacy held a roundtable with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to discuss pendency rates for trademark applications. Pendency rates represent how quickly the Trademark Office can issue or deny a trademark application. The Commissioner of the Trademark Office, David Gooder, and Deputy Commissioner of Trademark Operations, Dan Vavonese, joined the roundtable to discuss steps aimed at reducing the backlog in issuing trademarks.
The roundtable focused on the rise in trademark application pendency, and a surge in received applications has led to the average application review to go from under 4 months to over 14 months. During the pandemic, there was an increase in bad faith applications for trademarks, including filing trademark applications without an intent to use it in the U.S. and attempting to register a trademark with an identical or confusingly similar existing trademark. This led to spikes in applications in September and December of 2020. The agency aims to reduce the trademark pendency to four or five months but invites feedback from small businesses as to what goals and benchmarks the agency should set for applications.
The USPTO is focusing on first actions, which is the first review of an application by a trademark examiner and completing applications. In addition, the USPTO is concentrating on IT improvements, refining examination and process efficiencies, and hiring more examining attorneys. Most trademark applications are from SMEs (Small and Midsized Enterprises). The USPTO is attempting to educate SMEs through Trademark Basics webpages, a Registration Toolkit, a Trademark Basics Boot Camp, and a Trademark Assistance Center. In addition, the agency has begun to move suspicious applications to the Register Protection Office to help alleviate the surge in bad faith applications. USPTO has also provided incentives to employees, which shift the exceptional standard from first to final action and provide award incentives for first action review by examiners.
Attendees discussed the benefits of the agency taking a fresh look at their process to find efficiencies and increase the accessibility of trademark applications because issuing trademarks faster helps small businesses the most which comprise 78% of trademark applications. Further, small businesses in attendance emphasized the importance of reaching underserved communities when creating practices to ease trademark applications. The USPTO stressed the importance of law school clinics, boot camps, the assistance center, and changes to the e-filing system to help people unfamiliar with trademarks to successfully craft high-quality applications.
Please reach out to David Mullis, Assistant Chief Counsel, at David.firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-830-2292 with any questions or small business concerns.