8 January 2018Trademarks

TTAB celebrates 60th birthday

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) will continue to hear “cutting-edge” cases as it celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, according to the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Gerard Rogers, chief administrative trademark judge, and administrative trademark judge Susan Hightower wrote a blog post on Friday, January 5, saying they are looking forward to the challenge of hearing cases that reflect the “rapid changes in US commerce and society”.

They revealed that trial cases account for the majority (70%) of disputes initiated at the TTAB, but that most cases decided on the merits—around 75%—are ex parte appeals by applicants whose trademark applications have been refused by an examiner.

For the trial cases, oppositions are more common than cancellations, they said.

As Rogers and Hightower explained, the TTAB was created in 1958 by President Dwight Eisenhower when he signed an amendment to Trademark Act (Lanham Act), section 17, 15 USC, section 1067.

“The amendment created the TTAB ‘to determine and decide the respective rights of registration’ and provided for the appointment of board members to hear and issue, by a three-member panel, final decisions in inter partes cases and ex parte appeals,” they said.

The judges referenced some of the high-profile cases stemming from the TTAB, including Matal v Tam, in which the US Supreme Court ruled in June 2017 that the previous ban on “disparaging” trademarks was unconstitutional. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has since ruled that the ban on “scandalous and immoral” trademarks also contravenes the US Constitution.

Other recent cases include refusals to register marks for marijuana products (illegal under federal law); disputes over who owns registrations after musical groups break up; and attempts to register someone’s name as a trademark without their permission (such as ‘Obama Bahama Pajamas’), the judges said.

In a recent case filed at the TTAB, Disney opposed a trademark application for ‘You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think’, a quote attributed to the character Christopher Robin in Disney’s “Winnie the Pooh”.

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More on this story

19 June 2017   The US Supreme Court has deemed the government’s ban on disparaging trademarks unconstitutional, handing a win to rock band The Slants and overturning more than 70 years of legal practice.
22 December 2017   “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”