14 January 2016Trademarks

Trademark lawyer hits back at USPTO investigation

A lawyer has sued the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) claiming it has been “abusive” and “burdensome” in its requests for information (RFI) on 15,000 trademark applications filed at the office.

Matthew Swyers, the founder of trademark services company The Trademark Company, filed the lawsuit at the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

According to the lawsuit, filed on January 6, in August 2014 Leonardo Villareal Alejandro, an agent at the USPTO’s Office of Enrollment and Discipline (OED) initiated an investigation into Swyers’s practice.

According to Swyers’s complaint, Alejandro contacted his clients concerning their trademark applications without his knowledge.

The OED then issued RFIs into 15,000 trademark applications filed by Swyers on behalf of his clients. The OED also requested details of all current and former staff at The Trademark Company.

Swyers said he has spent more than $250,000 responding to the USPTO’s requests and has demanded more than $500,000 in damages. He cited the RFIs as violating his Fifth Amendment right to due process.

The complaint added that he has not been properly informed by the USPTO of what he has allegedly done wrong, describing the investigation as “Kafkaesque”.

Kafkaesque is a turn of phrase inspired by the work of writer Franz Kafka. Examples of his writing include instances in which bureaucracies overpower people but the phrase can also be used to describe bizarre real-life situations.

Swyers added that he has “expended extraordinary efforts in attempts to comply with the oppressive requests of the OED” but has been told numerous times that he has failed to respond in a satisfactory manner.

The USPTO declined to comment on the dispute.

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