Administrative sanctions process

Sanctions are formal administrative orders the Commissioner for Trademarks issues when parties violate the United States Patent and Trademark Office (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 USPTO.gov 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 USPTO.gov accounts through which all electronic forms must be filed.

You can view the orders issued by the Commissioner for Trademarks webpage.

If you are being represented by a filing company that has been precluded or an excluded attorney, visit our webpage on non-attorneys precluded from representing applicants and registrants for information on what you should do. Also, read the what to do if your application is suspended in an investigation for more information.

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 USPTO.gov.

  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 show cause order.
    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
    We may issue a formal letter detailing the violations, identifying all affected application(s) or registration(s), and identifying 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
    The order details the investigation’s findings, identifies application(s) or registration(s) that may be impacted by sanctions, and describes the sanctions.
    1. Sanctions are usually effective immediately.
    2. A copy of the order appears in the TSDR system for impacted applications and registrations.

A potential outcome of an order for sanctions is to terminate pending applications affected by the order. Generally, applicants may not revive a terminated application unless the applicant can demonstrate that the USPTO erred in including the application in the order for sanctions. The applicant should file a new application to seek registration of the mark that was the subject of a terminated application without involving the party that was sanctioned.

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