West Coast Franchise Expo, Day 3: Don’t Give Up On Your Trademark

Last day of the West Coast Franchise Expo, and things are winding down.  One of the principal topics among exhibitors continues to be the economy and the recent election.  I think people are hopeful that the change in power in the House will make a difference in economic policy towards small business, but at the same time are somewhat too guarded to be optimistic.  This article says it all – there is too much anxiety for genuine optimism.  It’s encouraging that President Obama at least recognizes that mistakes have been made in his approach towards small businesses, but it remains to be seen whether his administration will learn from these missteps and take a different approach going forward.

One interesting story to share from today.  A couple approached me with some questions about their business, and during our discussion, the subject turned to their business logo.  Their business has an original logo (they showed me) that they paid an artist to design for them.  They submitted the logo to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register as a trademark.  The PTO examiner responded by initially denying the application, commenting that the mark was too similar to another mark that was already registered by another company.  But this other company was in a completely different space, and there were significant differences between the two marks.  

The business owners thought that the PTO’s comment letter was the end of the road for their registration, and were ready to abandon their efforts.  I explained to them that they didn’t need to (and shouldn’t) let the PTO’s comment letter discourage them.  I told them that many mark owners receive initial comment letters from the PTO indicating an initial refusal to register the trademark, but that such initial refusals are only the first step – a mark owner can respond to the refusal by explaining why the PTO’s position is legally or factually incorrect.  I encouraged them to not give up and respond back to the PTO (or hire legal counsel to assist them in doing so), as many initial refusals ultimately do not prevent marks from being registered.  Hopefully, they will be able to convince the examiner to change his/her mind and allow the trademark registration to go through.

Overall, it’s been a successful show.  Exhibitors at the show have generally had a positive experience this weekend.  The show may not be as well-attended as it was back in the pre-recession days of 2006 and 2007, but visitor levels are definitely up from last year.  Based on my personal observations, I think that’s a good representation of the economy in general; business has not yet returned to pre-recession levels, but more deals are happening now compared to a year ago.

If you attended the Expo, I hope the show was great for you.  If you missed it, there’s always next time.


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