The agency responsible for registering trademarks, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, has recently amended, effective November 1, 2007, its rules dealing with public opposition to registration of trademarks and cancellation of existing trademark registrations. See 37 CFR Part 2, 72 Fed. Reg. 42242 (Aug. 1, 2007).
Oppositions and cancellations are administrative litigation proceedings heard by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (the “TTAB”) by which interested third parties can seek to prevent or cancel the registration of a trademark. In both opposition and cancellation proceedings, the TTAB's sole authority is to determine whether a trademark registration should be granted or cancelled, as the case may be, for the trademark at issue. The TTAB does not have jurisdiction to award damages or grant an injunction against use of the mark. Because of this limitation in the scope of the proceedings, the cost of litigating these disputes is usually lower than trademark infringement litigation in federal court. Moreover, the TTAB has in the past utilized a streamlined version of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which also served to minimize the cost of these proceedings.
The recent rule changes having the most practical effect incorporate more of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to make this administrative litigation more like Federal trial court litigation.