In what may be an unfortunate sign of the times, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has recently been dealing with increasingly abusive behavior directed toward its personnel.

In response, in October, the USPTO posted a detailed alert reminding those communicating with the Office of the (completely reasonable) expected Code of Conduct, and formalizing the 20+ year rule that those communicating with the Office must treat Office personnel with respect and professionalism. See TMEP §709.07.

Are you on the Naughty or Nice List? The Office welcomes all questions and communications, and responds to each in the appropriate manner as soon as possible. For example, the Office will only communicate with applicants/registrants regarding their own matters or, if they are represented by counsel, with the attorney of record. However, as set out in the TMEP §709.07 (See also 37 CFR §2.192), the Office “may [also] decline to consider or respond to any communication containing abusive, offensive, threatening, or otherwise discourteous remarks directed to the Office or any of its staff,” and may terminate communications or other interactions if individuals make “abusive, offensive, or threatening statements or engages in threatening or otherwise inappropriate behavior.”

The Office kindly reminds its “customers” that the USPTO also prohibits the submission of documents for any improper purpose, such as for harassment or to delay or burden prosecution.

In the event a document submitted in a trademark matter violates these provisions, it may be referred to the Deputy Commissioner for Trademark Examination Policy for review.  If it is found in violation, the document and any related correspondence may be hidden from public view and not appear in the application and registration record.

Additionally, those interacting with the USPTO are reminded that penalties for poor decorum may include sanctions in certain situations and reporting threatening communications to the Federal Protective Service for further investigation.

So, for those who are slow to learn that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, please take note that this is more than a gentle reminder that decorum and courtesy are expected in all professional dealings, including with the USPTO.

This article appeared in the November 2023 issue of MarkIt to Market®. To view our past issues, as well as other firm newsletters, please click here.

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