Under the pilot, the TTAB identified newly-filed cancellation proceedings limited to abandonment or nonuse claims, and which did not result in default judgment, to engage with and encourage the parties to agree to some form of the Board's existing Accelerated Case Resolution (ACR) procedures. The TTAB has an established practice of offering ACR in inter partes proceedings to simplify and speed up proceedings, allowing the parties to save time and expense. The standards of proof in an ACR proceeding remain the same as those in a traditional proceeding, and a final decision rendered under ACR may be appealed in the same manner and under the same time frames as non-ACR decisions.
Selection for the pilot
Between March 2018 and February 2020, the TTAB identified instituted cancellations involving only abandonment or nonuse grounds as potentially eligible for the program. In such cases, once an answer was filed, the assigned TTAB Interlocutory Attorney informed the parties that the TTAB would participate in their mandatory settlement and discovery planning conference (discovery conference). The Interlocutory Attorney also advised the parties that they should familiarize themselves with ACR in advance of the conference (such as by reviewing TBMP §§ 528.05(a)(2) and 702.04) and should be prepared to discuss any specific ACR measures to which they might agree.
The discovery conference
Both the Interlocutory Attorney and one of the Administrative Trademark Judges supervising the pilot program joined in the conference. The judge who joined in the conference would not later be assigned to the panel of judges that would be responsible for deciding the case on the merits. In addition to the usual subjects covered in a discovery conference, these conferences explored potential stipulations of fact, evidentiary stipulations, ways to limit discovery, and the possible use of the "summary judgment ACR model" to abbreviate the proceeding by having the Board treat summary judgment motion filings and accompanying evidence as the final record and briefing, and decide disputed factual issues.
The TTAB makes every effort to issue final decisions in ACR cases within 50 days once they are ready for decision. By reducing the length and complexity of the case, ACR provides a more efficient and economical alternative to the traditional full cancellation proceeding.
For each case identified as a potential candidate for an expedited proceeding, no preliminary judgment was made as to the likely outcome of the case. Rather, the case was identified as a candidate for inclusion in the pilot because it involved only claims of nonuse and/or abandonment and because use of ACR was seen as likely to save the parties time and expense, and lead to a quicker resolution of the case.