Search Reports Now Include Citation Data

TM TKO has now incorporated visual indicators of citations in knockout search and manual search results. There is a gray circle for any citations “inbound” during prosecution, and there is a red circle for any “outbound” citations against other applications. You can click on either circle to see full details on the cited marks, to hop into their file histories, and more. This data is also available via the magnifying glass.

Visibility into cited records adds considerable depth to the search report. Knowing how frequently the USPTO is citing this application as a bar to other applications helps you more accurately judge the risk that filing might pose to your client’s mark, and secure better outcomes for your client with less research time.

Office Action Analysis feature update – GS tooltips

TM TKO has added a bit of additional visibility into filing details in the Office Action Analysis tools’ list of Similar Acceptances (acceptances for similar marks facing the same issue) and Examiner Acceptances (recent acceptances from your Examiner for filings facing the same issue). Now, when you mouse over a class, you’ll see additional details on the goods or services for that application. Keep on the lookout for more updates!

How the Office Action Analysis Tool Helps – An Example

This blog posts looks at TM TKO’s new Office Action Analysis tool in more detail, demonstrating how it can help you build a find key prosecution data and build a strong response more quickly than ever before.

We’ll look at a recent final Office Action issued on March 22, 2019 for the mark KARMA ICE CREAM, Ser. No. 88/249,249. The application, filed by two individuals, covers a variety of frozen confections in Class 30. It raised two issues – 2(d) citations or potential citations to four prior filings, and requested a disclaimer of “ice cream.”

TM TKO Automates Research on the 2(d) Issue

Four prior registrations or applications were cited as bars: KARMA, registered in Class 30 and 42 (Reg. No. 5431756), GOOD KARMA (published in Class 30, Ser. No. 86651506) and SWEET KARMA (published in Classes 30 and 5, Ser. No. 87890908), and KARMA KOOKIES (pending in Classes 30 and 16, Ser. No. 88188680).

These citations are all listed in the “Citations” section of the report, just after the main application details. Each has a small triangle that can be expanded to show the full web of prosecution citations.

KARMA registration – cited against 4 applications, 1 published (SWEET KARMA) and 2 pending (including KARMA KOOKIES)

GOOD KARMA published app – overcame citations to two GOOD KARMAL registrations in prosecution; cited versus published SWEET KARMA and pending KARMA KOOKIES application plus an abandoned GOOD 420 KARMA application in Class 1.

SWEET KARMA – about to be registered, no citations in prosecution and only cited against KARMA KOOKIES and this application.

KARMA KOOKIES – the KARMA registration plus a whole slew of applications with KARMA; no response has been filed yet.

The Examining Attorney statistics suggest that the Examining Attorney of this application upholds initial refusals at a rate roughly consistent with the rate of the Office overall. (If the applicant was represented, you’d see attorney success rates too.)

The “Similar Acceptances” section points to helpful Office Actions overcoming comparable refusals, like two registrations for KARMA in Class 29 for differing goods with different owners, for GOOD KARMA CRUNCH in Class 30, for FRUITE KARMA in Class 29, for GOOD KARMA CAFÉ in Class 43, for KARMA KOLSCH and KARMA KOMBUCHA in Class 32 with different owners, and more. The applicants overcame 2(d) refusals based on the term KARMA with a variety of arguments and consent strategies, helping you quickly build persuasive responses on similar facts.

Just click on the magnifying glass, then “Documents,” and either click on the Office Action or response you want to see in PDF format, or click the magnifying glass again to get to a plain-text version.

Below this, the “Examiner Acceptances” section will point you to recent acceptances after 2(d) refusals for this Examining Attorney, which can provide additional insight into the types of arguments that the Examining Attorney may find especially helpful.

ICE CREAM Disclaimer Request

There isn’t a service out there that can help you from having to enter a disclaimer of “ice cream” where “ice cream” is generic for the goods, but TM TKO does help as best it can. The “Disclaimer” section is organized by term.

Clicking on KREME shows you three examples of applicants getting marks that contain KREME or close variants through on the Principal Register without a disclaimer after facing a disclaimer request, all in related classes.

This lets you rapidly view the best-case outcomes, and decide whether to pursue similar arguments. You can click on the magnifying glass and dig into the file histories of each. The registrations for NORTH FOREST KREME and KETO/// KREME, for example, both disclaim exclusive rights in “cream,” suggesting that the Examiner’s approach here is likely to hold up.

As above, clicking in on the magnifying glass to find additional details and do deep dives in file histories to learn more.

We hope the automated research provided by TM TKO’s Office Action Analysis tool is a huge boon to your practice, helping you do better legal research and drafting faster than ever before. Start playing with the Office Action Analysis tool now, and you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at support@tmtko.com.

Not using TM TKO yet? Sign up here.

Using Watch with Office Action Analytics

It’s simply to access Office Action Analytics for your portfolio via TM TKO’s Watch tools. Go to the “Watch” page, select “New Watch,” then select “Office Action” – or just click here.

Under “Trademark Criteria,” add some constraints to limit results to just Office Actions that you care about. You have a few options. If your email address is used in the correspondence field, that’s the simplest way to set it up.

Or, you can pair up your firm name (use “phrase” if you have a common term) and your last name. You can use a firm email extension or docketing email address plus your last name, too.

However you have yourself identified in the “Trademark Criteria,” make sure to go down to “Office Action Criteria. Select “Direction” and limit to “Outgoing” correspondence from the USPTO.

If you get an Office Action, you’ll get an email report with a link into the system. It’s just a click from there to access the file history or get to the full analytics report, as shown below.

The Office Action analytics report will give you Examiner data and selected successful responses, targeted to your facts, prevailing on similar arguments. TM TKO is the only place to find this kind of trademark research, and it’s so easy that you can’t help but do your best work.

We hope you enjoy the new tools. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email us at support@tmtko.com.

If you are not a subscriber yet, you can try for free for 30 days at https://www.tmtko.com/signup. TM TKO is very cost-efficient: a 24 hour day pass is $75. Subscriptions start at $250 per month or $2500 per year for one seat, and include unlimited use of all search, research, and watch tools.

TM TKO launches new Office Action Analytics and Search Upgrades

TM TKO’s new Office Action analytics let you prepare smarter, better Office Action responses in less time. Our tools do the complex research for you, instantaneously. See a full example of the kind of Office Action analytics that TM TKO provides, or try it now from your Tools menu.

Issue-driven analysis: instantly provides you successful responses for similar marks for similar products or services to help you build on the successes of others. Pull any TSDR document in formatted PDF or plain-text format.

Examiner details: compare your Examining Attorney’s allowance rates on this issue with others in that Law Office and at the USPTO overall, and see recent successful responses for your issue and your Examiner.

Citation histories: do deep dives into citation histories at a click. It’s easy to understand complex webs of co-existence, assess your own chances of success, and see how the cited prior filings have interacted with other applications.

ThorCheck

Office Action analysis integrates with ThorCheck, TM TKO’s ground-breaking comparative research tool based on a precedential TTAB opinion, to find examples of co-existence of the same mark for two sets of goods with different owners. This evidence helps you push back against likelihood of confusion claims. You can also use ThorCheck to provide confusion evidence as the senior party in a Letter of Protest or opposition.

Search Upgrades

Office Action and prosecution data is now integrated across our platform.

Results in knockout search, manual search, and watch results all feature easily accessible citation data, full TSDR file histories with Office Actions and Responses tagged by issue, and quick links to prosecution analysis. Just click on the magnifying glass icon for a wealth of research options.

A Small Step Towards Examination Consistency?

A statement that your current Examining Attorney “is not bound by the prior decisions” of other Examining Attorneys is an invariable source of frustration to applicants and their counsel. Building off a long line of cases, most recently, In re Nett Designs, Inc., 236 F. 3d 1339, 57 USPQ2d 1564, 1566 (Fed. Cir. 2001), Examining Attorneys and the TTAB have a wide scope of discretion to ignore the prior examination decisions on highly similar facts but not quite identical records.

We ran some numbers to quantify the impact. (Sample search strategies are below, at note 1.) Compared to the all applications, applications where the Examining Attorney says he or she “is not bound by” prior examination outcomes are about 5-6% more likely to have “bad” prosecution outcomes for the applicant. Abandonment rates pre-publication and pre-registration for 2(d) refusals were 5% higher, as were abandonments for 2(e)(1)-(4) refusals. Rates of acceptance on the Principal Register or with a 2(f) claim were also down 5-6% each.

This is highly counter-intuitive – the “is not bound by” language basically only arises in second or final Office Actions, and only comes up in situations where the applicant believes that a prior examination result (often for the same or similar mark owned by the applicant) should dictate the result of examination here. If anything, if the Office was aiming for consistency, we would expect more favorable results for applicants on this type of fact pattern.

  2(d) “not bound” 2(d) – all Difference
Registered or Published 39% 44% 5%
Dropped Pre-Pub or Pre-Registration 61% 56% 5%
  2(e)(1), (2), (3), or
(4) “not bound”
2(e)(1), (2),
(3), or (4) – all
Diff.
Registered or Published – Principal 10% 15% 5%
Registered or Published – 2(f) claim or claim in part 5% 11% 6%
Registered – Supplemental 24% 19% 5%
Dropped Pre-Pub or Pre-Registration 60% 55% 5%

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board recently provided a tiny glimmer of hope amongst this entirely unnecessary fog – In re The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, Ser. Nos. 87245967, 87245971, 87245973, and 87245975 (TTAB Feb. 15, 2019), available at http://ttabvue.uspto.gov/ttabvue/ttabvue-87245967-EXA-13.pdf (non-precedential). It is non-precedential, as are far too many TTAB decisions. The Board overturned a “merely informational” refusal, essentially because the applicant had nearly a dozen registrations for its RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS mark. The Board critically held that evidence that “random acts of kindness” has lots of non-trademark uses was “previously available” even if it was not part of the formal record in prior examinations, and the Office failed to provide a “reason for its inconsistent treatment” of the present applications from the prior registrations. The Office didn’t even manage to provide a coherent reason for refusing the four applications in the appeal while letting five others that were filed on the same day go through to registration with no issues.

Some of the specific facts, like the number of registrations, are unique to the Random Acts case, but the general principle that an Examining Attorney or the Board needs to show that the sort of evidence on which they are relying for the refusal was not available as of the prior examination would, if adopted more widely, significantly shifts the burden towards encouraging more consistent examination.

It is too early to tell if the decision will have a substantial impact, but the very earliest signs are encouraging – only two attorneys, Paul Reidl in arguing against a specimen-driven 2(e)(1) refusal for PLANT POWERED for pet food and Julie Hopkins in arguing against a 2(d) refusal of SEV1TECH & Design based on two prior registrations for SEVONE (suggesting that since a prior application for the same mark could have been refused on the basis of those registrations was not, a refusal for the newer application would be inappropriate), have cited to Random Acts, and it’s too early to tell the outcome of either.

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1 Sample TM TKO search strategy to find filings that were either published or registered with a 2(f) or 2(f)-in-part claim despite getting a 2(e)(1)-(4) refusal and an Office Action with the “is not bound by” language:

Building a Portfolio – the Chipotle Brand

Companies whose marks toe the descriptive-suggestive line can have complicated paths to “full” trademark protection on the US Principal Register. Let’s look at one what is now a well-known brand traveled the path to a strong registration portfolio – the house mark for Chipotle, the Denver-based fast Mexican chain. The company now has more than fifty active US filings, about half of which are registrations for its house mark or stylizations thereof. Andrew Roppel of Holland & Hart’s Boulder Office is the filing correspondent for the company’s US marks.

Chipotle’s first trademark registration was for CHIPOTLE MEXICAN GRILL & Design, shown below. The full prosecution history has never been scanned by the USPTO, but the application was filed in 1994 based on use since the prior year; a registration eventually issued on the Supplemental Register in late 1995. Why did it end up on the Supplemental Register? A chipotle pepper is a dried, smoked jalapeno pepper, either used on its own or packed in a spicy adobo sauce often used in Mexican cuisine, including in some of Chipotle Mexican Grill’s own food.

Chipotle_first
chipotle_dried

The company revisited its trademark portfolio in 1998, filing for the logo above, the word mark CHIPOTLE MEXICAN GRILL, and the word mark CHIPOTLE with 2(f) claims in 1998, eventually obtaining registrations for each in 2000. The company faced a 2(e) refusal for these re-filed applications. In response, it submitted extensive arguments arguing that CHIPOTLE was suggestive rather than descriptive, but the Office continued to refuse the mark as merely descriptive. A 2(f) claim based solely on 5 years’ use was sufficient to move forward to registration.

At the same time, the Office requested that the company disclaim CHIPOTLE and MEXICAN GRILL in the combined application. A response making a 2(f) claim and disclaimer of “Mexican Grill” overcame that issue, too.

The company’s expansion into prepared food products in 2005 generated similar issues, although, since the applicant was initially filed as an intent to use application, its 2(f) claim was initially refused on the grounds that (a) “chipotle” was more related to the applied-for foods than even restaurant services, and the distinctiveness for the prior registrations for services would not necessarily translate. The applicant was able to argue around the refusal based on the relationship between the goods and services, without having to fully paper out an evidence-based acquired distinctiveness claim. The application for CHIPOTLE alone for foods also ran into some prior-pending applications for BAJA CHIPOTLE for meat, CHIPOTLE BEEF PATTY for burgers, and CHIPOTLE for pizza, but each of them was abandoned prior to registration – the BAJA CHIPOTLE mark after an opposition by Chipotle Mexican Grill, the other two due to run of the mill prosecution inconveniences.

Chipotle has since obtained numerous registrations for variations of its house mark, all with little fuss – the 2(f) claims aren’t generating push-back from examiners any more, largely because most have probably eaten at a Chipotle restaurant at least once.

If you have a client facing a similar issue, TM TKO helps you research trademark prosecution histories, with more than ten million Office Actions and Responses that are fully searchable by issue, free-text, or any mark criteria that you can think of. Find the best examples of successful responses and evidence, mold the ideas and legal theories to your facts, and do your best work to help your clients succeed.