What are the new USPTO trademark filing rules in 2020?

Starting Feb. 15, 2020, certain mandatory requirements for trademark filings will take effect. These changes to trademark filing rules pertain mostly to communications with the USPTO and specimens of use. The new trademark filing rules will require nearly all new trademark applications to be filed electronically. That is not so much a change from current practice as most trademark applications are filed electronically these days.

The USPTO has published this new exam guide for the rule changes taking effect on Feb. 15th. Here are the more significant rule changes for trademark filings.

Applicant’s email address in trademark filings

New trademark applications filed on or after February 15, 2020 must include an email address for the applicant in order to receive a filing date. The applicant’s email address cannot be that of outside counsel or a foreign law firm. When filing new trademark applications, applicants should carefully consider which email address to use.

If the applicant is represented by a US attorney, the name, postal address and email address of the lawyer must be included as well.

Trademark rule changes for filing specimens of use

For trademark use on goods, the USPTO wants to see a closer connection between the marks and products. These specimen rule changes apply particularly to labels and tags, webpages and questionable specimens that appear to be digitally created or altered.

Labels and tags attached to goods

Labels and tags should be shown physically attached to the goods or packaging unless the specimen, on its face, clearly shows the mark in actual use in commerce. For example, it might be acceptable to show a label unattached to goods if the label displays the mark and informational matter such as net weight, volume, UPC bar codes, lists of contents or ingredients, or other information about the goods. To reduce the risk of a specimen refusal, it may be safest to show tags or labels attached to the products or packaging.

Webpage specimens

Webpage specimens must show the:

  1. URL for the webpage; and
  2. Date the webpage was accessed or printed.

How will new trademark filing rules affect digitally created or altered specimens?

The USPTO has provided a list of examples which would not be acceptable as specimens:

  • artist’s rendering
  • printer’s proof
  • computer illustration
  • digital image or a similar mockup of how the mark may be displayed

The above items consist of mere depictions of the mark or digitally created or altered images. Such images do not show actual use of the mark in commerce, whether for goods or services.

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Vic Lin

Vic Lin

Startup Patent Attorney | IP Lead Partner at Innovation Capital Law Group
If you are a startup or small business, we want to help. Our mission is to equip entrepreneurs with solid IP rights that facilitate funding, growth and sales. Let's get to work! Direct: 949.223.9623 | Email: vlin@icaplaw.com