The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is undergoing a significant transformation that will affect businesses, entrepreneurs, and trademark enthusiasts across the nation. As we approach November 2023, a pivotal change awaits the world of trademark registration and searches. The transition signifies the end of an era as the USPTO bids farewell to its longstanding trademark search system, TESS (Trademark Electronic Search System), which has been in use since 1993. The rationale behind this transition is rooted in the acknowledgment that TESS has become outdated and is no longer capable of meeting the evolving needs of a rapidly changing trademark landscape.
The trademark ecosystem in the United States has witnessed remarkable growth and transformation over the past few years. To put this into perspective, there are now over 3 million active trademark registrations in the country. This surge in trademark activity can be attributed to various factors, with the COVID-19 pandemic playing a pivotal role. The pandemic-induced economic challenges led to a surge in new business ventures and entrepreneurial initiatives. As a result, 2021 marked a record-breaking year with 943,928 trademark applications filed, reflecting a thriving culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.
While 2022 saw a slight dip in trademark applications, with 787,795 filed, it’s important to note that this figure still represents a substantial increase compared to pre-pandemic levels. This demonstrates that the entrepreneurial spirit remains strong despite the changing economic landscape.
As we navigate through 2023, the USPTO has identified a decrease in the projected demand for trademark registrations. This shift in demand has prompted discussions about revising the fee structure. It’s worth mentioning that the last fee update occurred in January 2021, and in light of the changing trademark landscape, adjustments are necessary to sustain the quality and efficiency of trademark services.
Here are some key proposed fee updates:
- Application Fee: The application fee for the TEAS Plus application is set to increase from $250 to $350. Additionally, there are talks of eliminating the standard application altogether.
- Intent to Use Application: Those filing an intent to use application may witness an increase in the fee to request an extension after the fourth request, rising from $125 to $250.
- Reviving Abandoned Applications: The fee to petition for the revival of an application that has been abandoned is set to increase by $100 to $250.
- Maintenance Fees: To maintain your trademark registration, there will be changes in fees for different sections. Section 8 fee will be $300, marking an increase of $75, Section 9 fee will be $350, representing a $50 increase, and the Section 15 fee will increase to $250, up by $50. You can learn more about what’s required to maintain your registration here.
These fee updates are designed to ensure that the USPTO can continue to provide efficient and effective trademark registration and maintenance services. While they may represent an additional cost for businesses, they are essential for sustaining the quality and reliability of the trademark system.
What the Updates Mean for Small and Micro Businesses
Your brand is your most valuable asset. Trademarks not only distinguish you from competitors but also protect you from copycats. Small businesses often find themselves competing against larger corporations with more significant resources. Trademarks level the playing field by ensuring your brand enjoys the same legal protections. Any increase in fees might deter some small and micro businesses from taking this essential step. However, these proposed changes require you to be strategic in your decision-making because failure to register your trademark could expose your brand to risks, including potential legal disputes and loss of brand integrity. Business owners must consider whether the increased fees warrant prioritizing certain trademarks or whether alternate branding strategies may be more cost-effective.
While these updates may pose challenges, it’s essential to view them as opportunities for adaptation and growth. Small and micro businesses have demonstrated remarkable resilience, creativity, and agility, and this adaptability can also extend to managing changes in trademark regulations.