Ignorance of the law is no excuse – and trademark owners who do not hire an experienced trademark attorney may end up paying dearly for their mistake.

The Perils of Self-Representation

When faced with a trademark opposition, many companies or small businesses believe that they can effectively represent themselves.  They quickly find out, however, that a trademark opposition proceeding is a civil litigation that has many procedural and substantive rules of law that must be followed.

The U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”), the administrative tribunal that has jurisdiction over trademark opposition proceedings,  has made it very clear that parties who attempt to represent themselves are held to the same standards when it comes to parties that are represented by attorneys.   What does this mean?  That adherence to the Federal Code of Regulations, Trademark Board Manual of Procedure, and Federal Rules of Evidence is strictly enforced.

The TTAB has even gone as far to state that since trademark law is a highly specialized field of law, that it is best to hire a qualified trademark attorney:

Any attorney licensed to practice in the United States may represent you before the TTAB. However, intellectual property law (which includes trademark law) is a specialized area of the law. You may wish to keep this in mind as you choose an attorney.

There are many consequences to not hiring a trademark attorney who is experienced in representing clients in litigation before the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.  These may include:

  • Higher costs– Many companies engage an attorney after making procedural or substantive errors in the case that need to be corrected
  • Weaker case– The failure to have a firm grasp of trademark law, precedent, and the Trademark Board Manual of Procedure all may contribute to placing at risk an otherwise strong case
  • Emboldened opponent– the mishandling of a trademark opposition often results in the adversary’s attorney being more aggressive, further contributing to higher attorney’s fees

The information age has produced vast quantities of knowledge that is freely available to people on almost any conceivable subject.  Want to learn about quantum physics?  No problem.  How about heart-valve replacement?  That, too.  Yet having access to unlimited information does not a rocket scientist or heart surgeon make.  This cautionary advice equally applies to arguing a trademark opposition case before the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

Further information on what to look for when considering to hire a trademark opposition lawyer has been discussed in earlier postings.