Photo by Eva Klanduchova
What is TTAB?
If you’re a business and/or trademark owner, you’ve probably heard of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, or TTAB for short. But what exactly is the TTAB, and why is it important?
The TTAB is a specialized tribunal within the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that handles disputes related to trademarks. Specifically, the TTAB hears cases involving oppositions to trademark registrations and cancellations of trademark registrations. It’s kind of like a court, but it’s not part of the regular court system – instead, it’s an administrative body that operates within the USPTO.
The TTAB is made up of administrative judges who are experts in trademark law. These judges hear cases that are brought before the board by individuals or companies who are involved in a trademark dispute. For example, if someone wants to oppose the registration of a trademark because they believe it’s too similar to their own trademark, they can file a notice of opposition with the TTAB. If both sides proceed with opposing arguments, the TTAB will exercise authority over the dispute and issue a binding decision with important implications for whether one side can or can’t continue with its brand or product.
One of the things that makes the TTAB unique is that it operates on a relatively informal basis. Proceedings before the TTAB are less formal than those in a federal district court, and the rules of evidence are more relaxed. However, this doesn’t mean that the TTAB takes its job any less seriously. In fact, the TTAB board is known for being very thorough in its review of cases, and its decisions are often monumental for the parties involved.
I’ve been notified of a TTAB action. Now what?
So why is the TTAB so important? Well, trademark registration is a crucial part of protecting a brand. Companies can develop common law (non-registered) rights in their brands and products, but registration usually carries significantly greater weight. When a company attempts to register a trademark, it first must clear examiner review at the PTO. It is then “published” for a short window during which time company competitors can file oppositions with TTAB to protest registration. So even if a trademark examiner determines that a trademark application is free and clear in light of other trademarks, a trademark applicant can still be forced to prove its differentiation in the face of one or more competitors.
*The concept of publication is antiquated; technically, as soon as a trademark application is filed competitors can find it in the TESS trademark search database.
Additionally, when a company registers a trademark with the USPTO, it gets certain legal rights and protections related to that mark. However, if someone else believes that the trademark shouldn’t have been registered in the first place, they can file a cancellation with the TTAB. If the TTAB decides that the trademark should be cancelled, the registrant loses its prior legal rights and protections.
The USPTO receives thousands of trademark applications every year, and it’s important to make sure that only legitimate trademarks are registered. By hearing oppositions and cancellations, the TTAB helps to ensure that the trademark system is fair and equitable for everyone. When the board issues a decision in a particular case, that decision can be used as a guide for future cases that involve similar issues. This can help to establish a consistent body of trademark law that is applied across the board.
Of course, like any legal system, the TTAB has its limitations. For example, the board can only hear cases that are related to trademark registration – it can’t hear cases related to other types of intellectual property, such as patents or copyrights. Additionally, the board’s decisions are subject to review by the federal courts, which means that they can be appealed if one of the parties involved is unhappy with the outcome (basically going from JV trademark disputes to varsity contests).
Overall, the TTAB is an important part of the trademark system in the United States. It helps to ensure that only legitimate trademarks are registered, and its decisions can have a significant impact on the parties involved. While it may not be as well-known as other parts of the intellectual property system, the TTAB plays a crucial role in protecting the rights of businesses and individuals who own trademarks. At Rockridge®, we can help you successfully establish and enforce your trademark portfolio before TTAB.
About Kevin Christopher
Kevin is the founder and principal of Rockridge®, a 4x B Corp Best For The World and Real Leaders Top 150 global impact company. He is annually recognized as a SuperLawyer, and has received numerous professional awards ranging from Conscious Company Magazine’s Top Business Leader to the Federal Lab Consortium’s technology license Deal of the Year. He has been profiled in B the Change, Forbes, the Los Angeles Times, Sustainable Brands, and many other media outlets highlighting sustainability and technology leaders and is widely recognized for his thought leadership and initiatives at the nexus of impact and innovation.
An entrepreneur-attorney, Kevin’s recently founded Quantiscope, an MIT/Harvard launched AI company advancing ML enterprise models for drug discovery, as well as climate tech Calliope Bio, a computational synthetic biology company launched from the Nucleate Activator and advanced through the Berkeley Skydeck accelerator. Kevin’s entrepreneurship career began with Resolute Therapeutics, a CARB-X awardee developing a novel class of broad spectrum antibiotics.
As an ESG leader, Kevin is a 2050 Fellow at the Yale Center for Business and Environment (CBEY), and select member of the World Economic Forum’s Crypto Sustainability Coalition. Kevin founded Tennessee’s local B Corp network B Tennessee and served as sponsoring counsel to B Academics. With a background in public-private partnerships, Kevin is a National Science Foundation (NSF) program evaluator for the Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites (CB2) as well as the Carnegie Mellon Center for Quantum Computing and Information Technologies (Q-CIT).
Kevin’s practice areas include:
- patent and trademark prosecution, licensing and litigation;
- corporate law, with an emphasis on benefit corporations, socially responsible businesses and high-growth emergent companies;
- government contracts, with an emphasis on innovation funding;
- corporate and investor financing; and,
- technology commercialization.
To meet with Kevin Christopher, schedule an appointment through Calendly or email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.