USPTO’s Trademark Public Advisory Committee: Where we’ve been and where we’re headed
Guest blog by David Cho, current chair of the USPTO’s Trademark Public Advisory Committee (TPAC) and Assistant Vice President Senior Legal Counsel, Trademarks & Copyrights of AT&T Services, Inc., and Susan Natland, immediate past chair of TPAC and co-chair of Knobbe Martens Trademark and Brand Protection GroupAs the main stakeholder advisory body for trademarks, the USPTO’s Trademark Public Advisory Committee (TPAC) plays a significant role in the trademark ecosystem. TPAC is a statutorily required advisory board comprising nine voting members appointed by the Secretary of Commerce. TPAC’s role is to provide input to the Director of the USPTO on the management, policy, goals, performance, budget and user fees related to trademark operations. TPAC’s contribution impacts not only the USPTO’s Trademark operations, but the entire trademark community.
So, what are the key takeaways in the world of TPAC from 2022 and what can we expect in 2023?
Reduction in time to first examination: The USPTO has seen record trademark filings in recent years, creating a massive “inventory” of trademark applications waiting to be examined. In 2022, the time from the filing of a trademark application to its first substantive review by the USPTO – also known as “first action pendency” – rose to an average of more than eight months. To put this in context, first action pendency in 2019 and 2020 was between three and four months. By the start of 2021, the flood of new applications started driving up first action pendency. In support of the Trademark Office leadership, TPAC members provided valuable analysis and feedback as the USPTO implemented initiatives to meaningfully reduce pendency. These include measures such as hiring and training new examining attorneys and other personnel, streamlining workflows, changing procedures, as well as deploying IT solutions to increase examination efficiency. These efforts are continuing in 2023 with ongoing TPAC advice.
Addressing trademark scams and fraud on the USPTO: In 2022, TPAC provided timely advice to the USPTO as they continued to address the increasing issue of fraud on the USPTO, which affects the integrity of the trademark register and causes ripple effects across the trademark community. TPAC strongly supported the USPTO’s ongoing efforts to crack down on fraud in 2022, including: (i) alerting users to known scammers by posting a list of scammers on the USPTO website; (ii) working with law enforcement where appropriate and sanctioning filers that violate USPTO rules; (iii) securing federal registration of the USPTO’s own trademarks to assist in stopping USPTO impersonators; and (iv) implementing a new system requiring all trademark filers to verify their identities as a condition for filing electronic trademark forms. We expect to see continued and additional efforts in these areas in 2023.
Advancing equity across the brand community: In 2022, TPAC’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) Task Force provided valuable guidance on and support for USPTO initiatives related to diversity and inclusion both within and outside the agency. TPAC’s commitment to focusing on increasing access and opportunities for all those with dreams of entrepreneurship led to elevating this task force to a subcommittee called Innovative Inclusion.
Combatting counterfeits: TPAC also strongly supported Director Vidal and the USPTO’s efforts to combat counterfeiting. In 2022, TPAC provided Director Vidal with ideas to address this scourge—some more traditional, such as increased and updated consumer (i.e., “buyer side”) education, and some more “outside the box.” TPAC believes that Director Vidal and the USPTO have done a great job articulating and providing visibility into the harm counterfeits bring to the U.S. economy, brand owners, consumers and communities. Keep an eye out for additional work in 2023 in this area as TPAC continues to provide input through a sub group experienced in fighting counterfeiting.
Highlighting the value of trademarks: A key part of TPAC’s focus is championing the value that trademarks bring to the U.S. economy. The USPTO’s March 2022 report on IP and the U.S. economy showed the enormous role that trademarks add to the financial health of U.S. IP-intensive industries, which accounted for $7.8 trillion in U.S. annual GDP. Of that total, $6.9 trillion—about one third of the entire U.S. GDP—comes from trademark-intensive industries. In addition, the report found that trademark-intensive industries supported more than 56 million U.S. jobs. The more we highlight the value of trademarks, the more the U.S. economy grows, consumers are protected, and creativity and innovation flourish.
Quarterly meeting of the Trademark Public Advisory Committee meeting on July 22, 2022 in Alexandria, Virginia (Photo by Jeff Isaacs/USPTO)
One way to highlight the value of trademarks it to honor them, and we look forward to further opportunities in 2023 and beyond to celebrate these critical legal protections that propel commerce and the U.S. economy. We also encourage you to check out USPTO’s Journeys of Innovation series which shares the stories of inspiring entrepreneurs whose trademarks serve as a critical way to communicate with their customers. These real-life stories truly exemplify the power of trademarks.
We have touched on a few highlights here, but this is just the tip of the iceberg! We encourage the trademark community to get involved in TPAC (more information can be found on the TPAC page of the USPTO website), to attend a TPAC public meeting, and to read more about the important work of our committee in our 2022 TPAC Annual Report.
Note: The current 2023 TPAC voting members are: David J. Cho (Chair), Adraea Brown (Vice Chair), Jomarie Fredericks, Tracy Deutmeyer, Dana Brown Northcott, Rodrick Enns, Deborah Gerhardt, Donna Griffiths, and Amy Hsiao. Each person is appointed by the Secretary of Commerce to serve on TPAC for a three-year term. For more information about the TPAC, its members and its work, visit the TPAC page of the USPTO website.