SUB CATEGORIES OF IP

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the agency responsible for registration, enforcement and policymaking associated with federal patent and trademark registration, and it is housed within the Department of Commerce. The Office of the Commissioner for Trademarks (Trademark Office) is broken into two separate departments overseen by the Deputy Commissioner for Trademark Examination Policy and the Deputy Commissioner for Trademark Operations.

The Deputy Commissioner for Trademark Examination Policy oversees several offices, including the Petitions Office, the Legal Policy Office, the Identification and Classification Policy Office, the Trademark Assistance Center, and the Office of Trademark Quality Review and Training. The Deputy Commissioner for Trademark Operations oversees several offices as well, including the Office of Intent-to-Use, the Office of Pre-Examination, the Office of Trademark Publication, the Trademark Law Offices, and the Trademark Services Office. Generally speaking, these various offices are responsible for determining the internal policies of the USPTO with respect to trademark examination procedure and trademark registration guidelines. That said, there are a number of other offices and organizations responsible for trademark-related activities. Perhaps the most important of these is the Office of the General Counsel, which contains the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB), as well as the Office of the Solicitor, the Office of General Law, the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI), and the Office of Enrollment and Discipline (OED).

The TTAB is an administrative body performing a judicial function, mainly in connection with appeals and inter partes proceedings. In terms of appeals, the TTAB hears appeals of decision by trademark examiners denying trademark registrations. With respect to inter partes proceedings, the TTAB hears opposition proceedings brought against trademark applications by those that believe they would be injured by the registration of a pending application. The TTAB will also hear cancellation proceedings brought against trademark registrations by those that believe a trademark has been improperly registered, provided that the party initiating the cancellation proceeding has been injured by the registration. There are a number of grounds for opposition or cancellation, including that the mark in question presents a likelihood of confusion, was first used in commerce after the opposing party’s mark, or that the mark in question is generic, descriptive but lacking secondary meaning, primarily a surname, disparaging, deceptive, functional, or scandalous.

In cases where they are accepted, appeals of the decisions of the TTAB will go either to a U.S. District Court or to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a specialized federal appeals court designed to handle certain kinds of appeals. From the Federal Circuit, appeals can go to the U.S. Supreme Court, but only in cases were a substantial clarification of trademark law is required such that a writ of certiorari will be granted, and only a handful of cases, if any, will meet these criteria each year. Appeals from U.S. District Court may be appealed to the relevant circuit court, and from there to the U.S. Supreme Court, but usually the TTAB decision is a final one.