Warning about unauthorized practice of law

Filing a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) starts a legal proceeding that is governed by U.S. law. While you may represent yourself in this legal proceeding, most applicants hire attorneys who specialize in trademark matters to represent them. Many continue to use attorneys after their trademarks are registered.

A private trademark attorney who is licensed to practice law in the United States can give you legal advice, help you avoid pitfalls with your application, increase your likelihood of getting a registration, and help you enforce your trademark rights. 

On this page:

Only attorneys licensed in the United States are permitted to represent you in a trademark matter before the USPTO

Under U.S. federal regulations, the only individuals who may represent an applicant or registrant in trademark matters before the USPTO are:

  • You, in a matter involving the trademark you own.
    • You may file on your own behalf and represent yourself in an application for registration of a mark that you own.
    • You may file a trademark application for a trademark owned by a partnership of which you are a partner, or by a corporation, limited liability company, or other legally formed organization of which you are an officer or the equivalent and which you are authorized to represent.
  • Attorneys in good standing with a bar of the highest court of any U.S. state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. commonwealths or U.S. territories.
  • Canadian agents or attorneys who represent applicants located in Canada and are both registered with the USPTO and in good standing as patent agents, or have been granted reciprocal recognition by the USPTO.
  • Certain trademark agents recognized to practice before the USPTO prior to January 1, 1957.
  • Foreign attorneys who are not licensed in the United States cannot represent anyone before the USPTO in a trademark matter. 
Employing any individual who is not authorized to practice before the USPTO to represent you in connection with your trademark application may: 
 
  • Delay and prolong the trademark application examination process.
  • Lead to the abandonment of your application.
  • Jeopardize the validity of any resulting registration.

Except as noted above, non-attorneys and foreign attorneys may not perform any of the following actions as a representative of another person in trademark matters before the USPTO:

  • Consulting with or giving advice to an applicant or registrant in contemplation of filing a trademark application or application-related document.
  • Preparing or prosecuting an application, response, post-registration maintenance document, or other related document.
  • Signing amendments to applications, responses to Office actions, petitions to the Director, requests to change the correspondence address, or requests for express abandonment.
  • Authorizing issuance of examiner’s amendments and priority actions.  
  • Conducting an appeal or an opposition, cancellation, or concurrent use proceeding before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

The unauthorized practice of trademark law before the USPTO is a serious matter and we will take appropriate actions if unauthorized practice is occurring. These actions may include:

  • Rejecting application submissions that were improperly signed or authorized.
  • Excluding individuals and entities from acting as an attorney, correspondent, signatory, or domestic representative in all trademark matters before the USPTO.

For information on what you should do if the USPTO has excluded the party representing you, visit Applicants and Registrants Represented by Excluded Parties.

Using a licensed private trademark attorney to file your trademark application

A private trademark attorney who is licensed to practice law in the United States can give you legal advice, help you avoid pitfalls with your application, increase your likelihood of getting a registration, and help you enforce your trademark rights. Read about how to find a qualified private trademark attorney.

Signatures on trademark applications and associated documents


All documents submitted to the USPTO in connection with a trademark application or registration must be signed by a proper person. 

The proper person to sign depends on the nature of the submission. Certain submissions may be signed by anyone with firsthand knowledge of the facts and actual or implied authority to act on behalf of the applicant, while others must be signed by the appointed attorney, or by the applicant if no attorney is appointed.  

All signatures must be personally entered by the individual person identified as the signatory.  Thus, another person may not sign the name of an attorney or other authorized signer.  Signatures “by the corporation” or “by the firm” are not permitted. 

Improperly signed submissions may delay or prolong the application process, may lead to the abandonment of your application, and may jeopardize the validity of any resulting registration.  If the USPTO determines that a submission is improperly signed, the submission will not be accepted and any arguments, evidence, or amendments set forth in the submission will not be considered or entered.
 

Verifications of facts

A verification signature is submitted for the purpose of verifying facts in a document on behalf of an applicant. 

The signatures on the following submissions are considered to be verification signatures:

  • Trademark applications.
  • Allegations of use.
  • Requests for extension to file a statement of use.
  • Declarations in support of substitute specimens and claims of acquired distinctiveness.

Verification signatures may be signed by any of the following individuals: (1) a person with legal authority to bind the applicant; (2) a qualified attorney representing the applicant; or (3) a person with firsthand knowledge of the facts and actual or implied authority to act on behalf of the applicant.
 

Responses, amendments, changes of correspondence, express abandonments, and other submissions

The signature requirements for responses to Office actions; amendments to applications; requests for reconsideration; requests to divide; requests to change the correspondence address; designations and revocations of domestic representatives; and requests for express abandonments are more specific about who must sign. For these submissions, if the applicant is represented by a qualified attorney, the attorney must sign.

If you are an individual applying for registration of a trademark that you own, and you are not represented by a qualified attorney, then you must sign these submissions; signatures by anyone other you are generally not acceptable.

If the applicant is a juristic entity (i.e., not an individual person) and is not represented by a qualified attorney, then someone with legal authority to bind the applicant must sign these submissions.  Therefore, if the applicant is a corporation, a corporate officer, such as a president or vice president, is presumed to have the legal authority to bind the applicant.  Likewise, a partner is presumed to have the appropriate legal authority to bind an applicant that is organized as a partnership. On the other hand, signatories identified by terminology such as “trademark administrator,” “business manager,” “owner’s designated agent,” or similar titles are presumed to be unauthorized signatories. 

Finally, if there is more than one applicant, and no qualified attorney has been appointed, then all applicants must sign these submissions.