China's Troubling U.S. Trademark Filing Program

May 8, 2018

As a trademark lawyer, I took a keen interest in this article in the Wall Street Journal.    https://www.wsj.com/articles/flood-of-trademark-applications-fromchinaalarms-u-s-officials-1525521600

 

In the U.S. there is no “trademark”, i.e., no enforceable trademark rights, unless the name or logo is used commercially and thus serves as a source identifier for goods or services.  Therefore, it seems pretty stupid on the part of China to pay people to register trademarks in the U.S. if many of those marks are fraudulent and/or have never been and never will be used in legitimate commerce.  There is little to no economic benefit in this exercise in terms of creating an asset of any value.  If this is representative of state-directed investment in or by China at large, then there may indeed be a huge amount of wasteful, misallocated spending which will eventually come home to roost in a very negative way.    

 

Unfortunately, until another party challenges these marks, if they have already squeaked through the USPTO with a bogus specimen, etc., the damage is already done for legitimate subsequent filers who don't have the funds or sophistication to Petition to Cancel these registrations.  The “Beefing Up IP Assets in China” program is a misnomer.  This should really be called the “Interference with the Smooth and Efficient Operation of the Trademark System in the U.S.” program since that is really all that it will accomplish.  This is yet another argument for committing more resources to the USPTO and looking at the rules with a more suspicious eye towards scammers. 

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