Administrative sanctions process

Sanctions are formal administrative orders issued under the authority of the Director of the USPTO when parties are found to have violated the USPTO Trademark Rules of Practice or the terms of use for USPTO websites and filing systems, including the rules concerning signatures, certifications, and representation of others before the USPTO, and/or the terms of use for accounts. These sanctions include, without limitation:

  • Not considering or giving any weight to the affected submission.
  • Terminating the proceeding, which can include terminating the application.
  • Precluding a person from submitting any documents in trademark matters before the USPTO.
  • Deactivating affected accounts through which all electronic forms must be filed.

You can view the orders issued under the authority of the Director of the USPTO using the Trademark Decisions and Proceedings search tool

If you are represented by a filing company that works with a precluded non-attorney or a suspended or excluded attorney, here is information on what you should do:

Below are the steps we take when investigating submissions that appear to violate the USPTO Trademark Rules of Practice, including the rules concerning signatures, certifications, and representation of others before the USPTO, and/or the terms of use for

  1. Reporting
    USPTO attorneys or customers identify a suspicious submission or pattern of behavior.
  2. Investigation
    We review to see if there is evidence of a rule violation and if other applications or registrations are affected. The affected application(s) may be suspended while the investigation process is ongoing. If so, a “suspended pending administrative review” status will appear in the Trademark Status and Document Retrieval (TSDR) system. Also, a notice of suspension will be sent to all appropriate correspondence email addresses.
  3. Determination
    We’ll decide whether to issue a show cause order or allow the submission to continue through examination.
    1. If we find evidence of rule violations, we’ll issue a so-called "show cause order." This is a formal letter detailing the violations and requiring the party to explain why the USPTO should not impose any sanctions proposed in the letter.
    2. If we don’t find evidence of rule violations, the suspension is lifted and the application is returned to normal processing. Any deadlines associated will be reset with new deadlines.
    3. If we discover new information or additional evidence of rule violations, we may re-open an investigation.
  4. Show cause order
    If we issue a show cause order, it will detail the violations, identify all affected application(s) or registration(s), and identify possible sanctions, depending on the rule violations.
  5. Response to order
    The show cause order requires the parties to respond by a certain date to explain why the USPTO should not impose the proposed sanctions. Depending on the response, we may issue an order for sanctions, require additional information or explanations, or return the application to the normal examination process.
  6. Order for sanctions
    If an order for sanctions is issued, it will detail the investigation’s findings, identify application(s) or registration(s) that may be impacted by sanctions, and describe the sanctions.
    1. Sanctions are usually effective immediately.
    2. A copy of the order appears in the TSDR system for impacted applications and registrations.

Potential outcomes of order for sanctions


If the sanctions order includes terminating trademark applications, we’ll include the order in the electronic record of all affected applications. We normally will implement the termination and update the prosecution history with an entry reflecting this termination. Usually, an applicant cannot revive a terminated application, unless they prove that their application was wrongly included in the order.

Section 66(a)-based applications

If the trademark is filed with the USPTO as a Madrid Protocol Section 66(a)-based application, the sanctions order will identify the reasons why termination would be appropriate but we will generally not terminate the application. That may change as our ability to timely process international notifications required by the treaty improves.


We don’t usually terminate registrations. Instead, we include the order for sanctions in the electronic record of the registration and update the prosecution history to show that the registration was subject to an order for sanctions.

The findings in the sanctions order may affect the validity of the registration and the registrant’s ability to maintain it. The registration may be subject to third-party challenges. Also, the USPTO may give no weight to post-registration submissions.

Read what to do if you’ve been scammed for additional steps to consider. 

Delegation of authority

Pursuant to 35 U.S.C. section 3(a)-(b), the Director has delegated to the Commissioner for Trademarks the authority to impose sanctions or actions permitted under 37 C.F.R. section 11.18(c), as deemed appropriate in trademark matters. The Director has also provided that such authority may be further delegated by the Commissioner.