Competition Is Good…Even For Government Service Providers

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has FINALLY expanded the vendor pool to meet its patent production requirements. The agency believes that the added competition will lower prices. Those lower prices may save the agency an estimated $150 million over the next ten years. Who knows? Maybe some of that savings will dribble down to the inventors who use the agency to receive patent protection.

Lower prices engendered by competition may save the USPTO an estimated $150 million over the next ten years. 

The protection of intellectual property is the main goal of the USPTO. They are responsible for examining, issuing and maintaining the registrations of patents and trademarks in the United States. Sadly, they as a government agency have been … ahem … a bit lagging in encouraging free-market competition. They are historically not good at encouraging free market competition amongst their own providers.

Delain Law Office, PLLC is a boutique law firm that concentrates in helping inventors, authors and businesses navigate the intellectual property landscape. Thus, the USPTO’s use of only one vendor for any of its mission-critical work is a concern.

For the last 50 years, the USPTO knew of only one vendor capable of meeting the specified requirements for capturing patent data. After a thorough and exhaustive competition process and the execution of a new contract, the USPTO now says they are “…confident that the addition of a new vendor will provide USPTO with the added support it needs to continue to meet or exceed the quality and quantity requirements while also removing the risk of a single point of failure for mission critical work.”

This transition from a single vendor to a dual vendor environment, the USPTO claims, will result in agency cost savings per patent, thus allowing them to advance their work throughout the agency to better serve stakeholders. 

The USPTO claims they encourage competition in business. And, slowly, they are moving toward putting their money where their mouth is. This addition of a competing vendor for patent data capture is one small step; I’d like to see more vendors admitted to the Club.

And I can point to at least one other instance where the USPTO favored one private company to the exclusion of all others, in violation of any government encouragement of free-market competition I’ve ever heard of. Specifically, when they first started their online portal for patent document filing, they REQUIRED a Windows interface on the client (user … my) end. This went on for several years. I, however, was and remain a Mac shop. I therefore was REQUIRED to go out and get a Windows machine (Windows running on Mac did NOT work for this) so I could file patent documents. You better believe I complained about the government favoring one private enterprise over another … and, lo and behold, the USPTO now allows both Windows and Mac to talk to the patent filing system. I do not know whether they allow any other operating system to talk to their filing system; I hope they do.

Washington Redskins

It’s been quite some time since I posted to this blog, and I have to come back with a rant.

The Washington Redskins are an NFL football franchise. Nothing more, nothing less. However, their name is evidently a political fireball.

The pro column for changing the name is limited to political correctness, which, I’m sorry, I have a problem with. We can’t call a spade a spade these days without offending someone. I don’t even know if those who are of Native American descent are offended by the NFL’s calling their Washington team the Redskins. Me, I look at it as the team based in our nation’s capital is honoring the Native Americans. But I guess that’s not the politically popular view these days.

The con column for changing the name is legion. The team will have to spend $millions to re-brand itself. The logo will have to be changed. The colors will have to be changed. The stadium and road signage will have to be changed. The direct marketing collateral will have to be changed. And what about all those franchise-specific marketing paraphernalia — the mugs, the hats, the key rings, the sports cards, the kids’ uniforms bearing RG3’s number? Those will all have to be changed. Redskins sports memorabilia bearing the Redskins logo and name won’t exist, and that will do a number on the market for that memorabilia.

Can’t we just call a spade a spade?

Oops, iPhone Trademark Already Taken In China AAPL

Oops, iPhone Trademark Already Taken In China AAPL.

THIS is why a trademark search is important BEFORE you invest $millions into branding your product. If you intend to market internationally, get the trademark search done in every country that you intend to market in. And search to register in the correct category or categories….

iPhone can’t be iPhone in China. There’s a Chinese company that has registered the mark in the telephones category (Apple owns it for hardware and software). That, folks, is about 1/4 of the world’s population to which Apple cannot market under the current name of the product without going through some sort of legal maneuvering (getting the existing Chinese mark invalidated or reaching some sort of deal with the mark’s owner).

Best laid plans….

New top-level domains could cause .trademark chaos

New top-level domains could cause .trademark chaos | Media | .

ICANN is planning to do something very strange next year.

We’re all used to .com, .net, .info and the rest of the top-level domains (“TLD”) by now. Well, watch out, world — here come the branded TLDs!! We’ll soon see .ibm, .3m, .delain-law-office. All you need is the $185,000 (a bit more than spare change to a small business person) to purchase the TLD name (which is why you WON’T see .delain-law-office).

As a trademark lawyer who spends time extracting clients from unintended second-level domain name infringements, I can see the trademark knots coming down the pike. Not only will second-level domains get squatted; TLDs will get squatted and sold for $millions. 

Amazing. And utterly confusing. Not a good move, ICANN.

McDonald's loses trademark battle in Malaysia

McDonald’s loses trademark battle in Malaysia —

Bad news for the home of the Big Mac. As described in this article from the Chicago Tribune, Malaysia does not view “Mc…” as associated with restaurants and food as a prefix to the intellectual property of McDonald’s Corporation. 

Unlike the United States, which forced the closure of McBagels based on the use of “Mc…” in the food industry being deemed confusingly similar to McDonald’s famous mark, Malaysia has held that McCurry, ostensibly an abbreviation for “Malaysian Chicken Curry” is not rendered confusingly similar to McDonald’s famous mark merely by the addition of the “Mc” prefix.

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I hear that “Mc” in association with food, I immediately think of McDonald’s. I wonder what the Malaysian court thinks of? Actually, I wonder what they were thinking of?

Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks to Enter into Force in 2009

Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks to Enter into Force in 2009.

This is good news for trademark owners worldwide. The Singapore Treaty, administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), will open the way for the branded goods industry to register and manage trademark rights cost-effectively and efficiently. The treaty “… standardizes procedural aspects of trademark registration and licensing and enables owners of trademarks and national trademark authorities to take advantage of efficiencies in using modern communications technologies to process and manage evolving trademark rights.” The USA ratified the Singapore Treaty on 1 October 2008.

Australia ratified the treaty on 16 December 2008. Australia was the tenth country to do so; therefore, according to its terms, the Singapore Treaty will go into full effect on 16 March 2009, three months after the tenth ratification. The ratifying nations are:

the Kyrgyz Republic

Over time, other WIPO countries will, we hope, join with these first ten under the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks to help to standardize trademark law throughout the world and make registration across international boundaries more and more seamless. More information about the Singapore Treaty can be found on the Singapore Treaty’s webpage on the WIPO site.