Category Archives: Business Development

Results of the TM TKO 2020 Trademark Practice Economic Survey

For the past two weeks, TM TKO ran a survey about how trademark professionals are feeling about their practice in 2020. We’ll summarize the results in this blog post. Thanks to our users and to participants on Oppendhal Patent Law Firm’s e-trademarks listserv for their responses!

About TM TKO

A very quick word about us – TM TKO has been providing daily or subscription-based access to a variety of trademark research tools since 2015. Our customers include AmLaw 100 firms, trademark boutiques, solo practitioners, government agencies, in-house counsel, and more. We had our best year ever in 2019, and are looking forward to 2020.

We aim to help trademark lawyers with three main pillars of all successful trademark practices: solving everyday problems, solving hard problems, and growing practices.

Everyday problems: our clearance, search, and watch tools help you with your day-to-day practice needs. Hard problems: specialized research tools like trademark Examiner analytics, automated and manual Office Action research, and comparative research via ThorCheck® can help overcome difficult prosecution refusals. Growing your practice: we have an expanding set of marketing solutions to help grow your client base and generate more projects for existing clients.

Haven’t used TM TKO yet? It’s free to try for 30 days.

To the Results!

Trademark Practice – Size and Geography

50% of respondents practice in groups of 2 to 5 trademark lawyers; the rest were evenly split between solo practitioners and larger groups.

Almost half of respondents were from the east coast, with about 20% each from the west coast and southeast, and a smattering elsewhere. All but a couple of respondents were American lawyers. Of those, about 70% were in large cities, with the rest in small-to-medium size cities.

Expectations for 2020

People felt pretty good about their personal practices and about their firms’ trademark practices – just above 50% felt like their personal practice was improving and 40% felt their firm’s trademark practice was improving (respondents were high achievers, apparently). About 40% expected a similar year, and under 10% expected a worse year or couldn’t guess how the year would go.

US prosecution work was the main growth area for 66% of respondents, with smaller numbers seeing growth in international prosecution, non-litigation disputes, and prosecution. Litigation was a growth area for only 15% of respondents, and a slowing practice area for 20%.

Client relationships remain key – 63% of respondents generate most of their new work from existing clients; domestic referrals are a key for 45% of respondents and international referrals from foreign counsel for 28% of respondents. Respondents’ own business development efforts were only a significant factor for 25% of respondents.

The low level of direct business development efforts maybe isn’t a good thing, though; 45% of respondents listed client acquisition as their single biggest challenge for 2020. Staffing, price pressures and commoditization, technology, and practice costs all had over 20% of respondents worried. Two things generated lower levels of worry: clients paying (17%) and client retention (11%). Once clients are in the door, they tend to both pay their bills and stick around.

Technology

A lot of lawyers changed some of the technology tools that they use for practice in 2019, but seem less inclined to do so in 2020. Search, watch, research, prosecution research, and docketing tools all polled over 25% for 2019; only other research tools (over 50%) cracked the 20% mark for 2020. Respondents were generally enthused about technology improving their practice and its efficiency, although there several respondents comments on technology-adjacent concerns about filing mills and unauthorized practice of law rules.

The USPTO and Its Performance

The good feelings end here. 62% of respondents think the USPTO is doing a worse or much worse job in examination than in recent years, and only one respondent thought it was improving. 66% of respondents said that the USPTO has gotten better at nothing in the last several years; about 20% commended the USPTO on changes for website usability and 10% on improved TTAB decisions. The most common gripes: 40% took issue with examination on 2(d) issues, 30% on 2(e) issues, 45% with website usability, and 45% other prosecution issues. 17% felt there were no negative changes and 10% found that TTAB decisions were getting worse.

The “disastrous implementation” of the domicile and email rules was specifically called out by a number of respondents, as were specimen issues and the problems the USPTO is having keeping the registry clean of marginal use claims (and its spillover onto legitimate applicants).

Travel, Education, and Networking

75% of respondents usually attend the INTA Annual Meeting, by far the most of any meeting. 40% go to an unlisted event, with 20% or fewer going to the INTA Leadership Meeting, the AIPLA Annual Meeting, a state bar annual meeting, or the ABA IP Bar annual meeting.

This year, the travel to Singapore appears to be really hitting INTA attendance, at least among the North American lawyers who responded to this survey. Only 31% said they were attending this year (a 40% drop); anecdotally, people suggested that the costs and travel time commitments are the main reasons for this decision. TM TKO is in this group, too – we are allocating our time and conference budget elsewhere this year. One wonders if potential late-attendee numbers might drop as well, due to the outbreak of the coronavirus in the region. Other conferences had roughly similar numbers.

Conclusion

We hope your trademark practice has a great 2020, and if TM TKO can do anything to help make that a reality, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Trademark Business Development Made Easier with TM TKO

For years, TM TKO clients have been using our unlimited trademark watching services for years to identify new potential clients that grow their trademark practices. TM TKO has now simplified the process of setting up business-development-focused watches to find new trademark clients.

I. Find Trademark Clients – Use the “Business” Tab

After you log in, you’ll see a new “Business” tab along the top. This wizard will help you quickly set up watches that will identify unrepresented trademark applicants who could use your help. With pre-set options for new applicants, new Office Action recipients (including the option to limit by issue type), new Notices of Allowance, or various types of abandonments, you can set up and customize an array of business-generating watches in just a few clicks. Make sure to pay attention to the customization advice on that page – there’s more advice on that front below, in this post.

Need something different? Just let us know and we can help you set up the watch that you need.

II. Making the Most out of Business Development Watching – Tips & Tricks

How can you get the most mileage out of business development watching and expand your trademark practice? There are two keys.

II.A. Find Your Audience and Your Pitch to Acquire Trademark Clients

Give potential clients a strong reason to pick your services. Two strategies can be especially successful.

Geography – You like where you live, so connect with others in your city or state who need your help! The option to have face-to-face contact can sway people’s choice of legal counsel, even if you end up communicating primarily or exclusively via email or phone.

Industry – Is there an industry where you have special knowledge? Are you a musician, or do you have deep knowledge in biomedical science, or do you have a background in fashion or retail? Focus your watching on applicants in the International Class or Classes that are most relevant, and stand out by emphasizing your expertise in your outreach.

Language Skills and Foreign Relationships – Targeting foreign applicants can be especially useful if you have strong language skills. Similarly, if you already do a lot of work with foreign counsel from a country or a region, targeting international applicants of the sort you’re already helping – and highlighting your expertise in doing so – can be especially fruitful.

II.B. Be Systematic and Active to Grow Your Practice

Systematic activity is the key – fortunately, it’s not hard to set up a repeatable process that requires little manual effort. TM TKO’s watching sends you a list of business prospects in CSV format every morning, tailored to your ideal client set. You can use either an email service (like Constant Contact, MailChimp, Emma, or EmailOctopus) or a print-and-mail service (like VistaPrint or Click2Mail) to contact these potential clients. You can customize your outreach to the industry or the type of legal issues they are facing, and you can even use intermediaries like Zapier to completely automate your outreach process.

III. Don’t Forget Your Current Clients!

Your best clients are the ones you already have. If you haven’t used Portfolios to set up watching across your existing trademark portfolio already, it’s really simple. In minutes, you can make sure you can protect your clients in several ways, finding:

(1) new applications similar to their marks,
(2) applications that are newly published for opposition that are similar to their marks, and
(3) any new 2(d) citations from the Office citing one of your clients’ marks.

TM TKO gives you a simple way to protect their marks and expand your own dispute-related book of business.

IV. Contact Us!

Trademark business development watching is available with any TM TKO subscription; there are no extra fees. Subscribers get unlimited access to all of our trademark clearance, watch, Office Action research and analytics, and other prosecution tools, too – a great value. If you have any questions about setting up business development or existing-client watches, or have special needs, please reach out to us at support@tmtko.com.

Using TM TKO for External Business Development

TM TKO’s watch tools are a great way to find new clients, not just to protect your existing clients. Let’s walk through how we can find unrepresented applicants in your area facing complex prosecution problems. Let’s say you are based in Birmingham, AL, and you want to target in-state, unrepresented applicants facing Office Actions.

Go to “Watch” then “New Watch” then “Office Action.” Give your watch a name, like “Alabama Biz Dev Watch.” Pick the frequency you want updates – we will do “Daily” for this example.

Under “Trademark Critera,” select “Attorney Representation” and “No.” This will remove applications that have counsel of record listed. (Some in-house counsel do not use this field, so be sure to take a look.) Click “Add Rule” and select “Owner Addresses,” and add “any” of “AL” or “Alabama.”

Leave “Cited Trademark Criteria” blank.

Under “Office Action Criteria,” add “Direction” and select “Outgoing (PTO)” to see new outbound Office Actions. Then “Add Rule” and add “Issue Type” if you want to limit to only certain types of Office Action content.

If you plan on using a mail merge as a part of your outreach, select “Include CSV results file with notification” and you will get an Excel-style spreadsheet that’s simple to use for custom communications.

A screenshot showing a representative custom watch is below. You can do all sorts of issue targeting, geotargeting, or even focus on upcoming post-registration deadlines using a similar “Trademark” watch – there’s no limit to the opportunities you can uncover.

Of course, be sure to follow your local jurisdiction’s rules about attorney advertising. Good luck finding new clients and expanding your business!

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