Sorry mom and dad — guess that all my expensive legal training was for naught.

Over the past several years, online technology has spurned a cottage industry of trademark filers, business consultants, and trademark lawyers who will gladly file a trademark application for the lowest dollar amount possible. Attention shoppers!  Who knew that being a trademark lawyer could be so easy that even a caveman can do it?  Note: the USPTO seems to think otherwise and has issued its own warning.

Welcome to the wonderful world of legal commodities where you always get more and pay less. Feel free to stock up on paper towels, detergent — and yes, trademark filings.

We are strong advocates of the use of technology to make trademark legal services more efficient and affordable.  However, when trademark solution providers either misrepresent the law or deliberately hide additional fees that most companies will incur, this causes damage to the relevant consuming public and reputable trademark attorneys everywhere. Buyer beware: trademark business services ain’t so simple or cheap as advertised.

Here are some examples of “too good to be true” trademark services claims:

  • “Register your trademark in minutes!” There was a time not too long ago that LegalZoom advertised this statement in their SEM campaigns. Problem was, this statement is a legal impossibility, starting with the fact that the U.S. Trademark Office currently has a 3-4 month backlog before they even review a trademark application!
  • One trademark law “consultant” (who is in effect practicing law without a license) authoritatively declares on his website that “a trademark opposition or cancellation, or petition to cancel means that a party wants you to stop using your brand, product, or service name, and can.”   This statement is legally false; the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s jurisdiction authority is limited to the registrability of trademarks only. It has no authority to stop someone from using a trademark in commerce, which is within the jurisdiction of federal and state courts. The author did get one thing right, however: “ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
  • The top filer in the United States for trademarks (who was brilliant in creating a robust trademark search database) unfortunately advertises in his SEM pay per-click search engine ads that companies can “trademark a name in just 5 minutes.”   Again, a legal impossibility — not to mention that many trademark applications get rejected and there is no guarantee that registration will always result.

What is the result of this big-box store approach to trademark advertising claims and representations?  The perception that registering and protecting valuable U.S. trademarks is as easy (and inexpensive) as shopping at your local dollar store. Trademark owners and companies that are serious about their brand name protection are well-advised to proceed with caution and to hire an experienced trademark attorney.