The USPTO’s recent show cause order to Chinese IP firm Shenzhen Huanyee Intellectual Property Co., Ltd., about its alleged unauthorized practice of law in the US in over 8,000 applications and widespread use of false information in those applications. The Office may invalidate all such applications.
The USPTO has issued these in other situations, like this 2018 order to USAEU Intellectual Property Agency Co. Ltd. (over 2,500 applications) and a prior round of 2016 enforcement. Prior rounds of enforcement did not invalidate the applications or resulting registrations, so the Office is definitely being more aggressive this time. A list of enforcement actions — lots of which are against Chinese representatives — is available here.
TM TKO did some research on some of the most common Chinese email providers (qq.com, 126.com, 163.com, sina.com, 139.com, sohu.com, and foxmail.com) and how frequently email addresses from those providers are used as the correspondent of record in USPTO trademark filings. It’s a lot! A surprisingly large number of these just flatly list a firm with a Chinese address as correspondent — at least 50%. This isn’t necessarily problematic — a US-licensed attorney could be practicing there — but I wouldn’t be shocked to find future unauthorized practice actions against some counsel of record in this data set.
The number of applicants listing a US address and using a typically-Chinese email address is pretty high. Again, it’s not impossible that this happens, but I’d be shocked if a decent percentage of these (a) don’t have a common “address” and (b) wouldn’t be of some interest to the PTO’s disciplinary czars.
We’ll be monitoring additional USPTO enforcement actions to see if this aggressive enforcement comes to pass (especially invalidating applications) turns into a continuing priority, or is more of a sporadic twitch of their enforcement muscles.