Responding to USPTO Office Actions
What happens to a trademark or patent application when an Office Action from the USPTO goes unanswered? The application will be declared abandoned at the end of the allowed response time. This is applicable both for unanswered non-
Need an Attorney for working with the USPTO?
Getting the right help can mean better results: Facts Matter and being able to apply the law to the facts is something that is very important in the trademark and patent field. Unfortunately many applicants (and their attorneys) have trouble and nearly half of trademark and patent applications end up going abandoned! Not Just Patents® Legal Services has an excellent record for working with the USPTO. We can help you with Responses to Office Action; File or Defend a Trademark Opposition or Cancellation; Patent or Trademark Searches and Applications. We also Send or Respond to Cease and Desist Letters (these are not a USPTO activity ).
Because there are so many facts involved with any of these processes or proceedings, we have divided up the information by topic on our web sites. Please see the bottom of this page for a list of topics and where to find more information.
When do I have to respond?
Timely Response: If you have received by mail or email an:
you must respond within six (6) months of the mailing date of the Office action or your application will abandon. If the Office Action is a "Priority Action," responding within two (2) months will give you priority handling; however, you do have the full six (6) month response period, if necessary.
This means that your email response must arrive on the USPTO server prior to Midnight, Eastern Standard Time, of the last day of the response period-
TMEP 303.01 For paper correspondence, the date of actual receipt in the USPTO is assigned as the filing date of all correspondence. (TEAS and TEAS Plus correspondence must be filed electronically.)
TMEP [Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure] 718.02 Failure by Applicant to Take Required Action During Statutory Period
15 U.S.C. §1062(b). If the applicant is found not entitled to registration, the examiner shall advise the applicant thereof and of the reason therefor. The applicant shall have a period of six months in which to reply or amend his application, which shall then be reexamined. This procedure may be repeated until (1) the examiner finally refuses registration of the mark or (2) the applicant fails for a period of six months to reply or amend or appeal, whereupon the application shall be deemed to have been abandoned, unless it can be shown to the satisfaction of the Director that the delay in responding was unintentional, whereupon such time may be extended.
What are Office Actions and How to Respond to an Office Action from the USPTO
Office actions are first action correspondences from the assigned USPTO trademark examiner that set forth the legal status of a trademark application if the trademark application does NOT meet registration requirements.
There are several types of office actions:
1. Examiner’s amendments;
2. Priority actions;
3. Office actions (non-
4. Suspension letters.
Note: If the trademark DOES meet registration requirements, the first action of the USPTO (the ‘TRAM Snapshot of App at Pub for Oppostn’) may go unnoticed by the applicant until the applicant receives a postcard or email of the ‘Notice of Publication.’
Types of Office Actions
1. Examiner’s Amendment
An examiner’s amendment is a written confirmation of an amendment made to an application. The trademark examining attorney assigned to the application will make the amendment after consultation with an applicant or the applicant’s attorney. The examiner’s amendment is merely a written confirmation of the agreement between the examining attorney and the applicant as to the amendment, and it is also a notice that the amendment will be made. The applicant need not respond to the examiner’s amendment unless the applicant wishes to make further changes to the application.
2. Priority Action
A priority action is a letter [electronic] in which an examining attorney sets forth specific requirements that the applicant must meet before an application can be approved for publication. An examining attorney will issue a priority action after consulting with an applicant or the applicant’s attorney. Unlike an examiner’s amendment, the priority action does not confirm resolution of the issues; instead, it explains the requirements still outstanding.
When the Office Action is a "Priority Action," responding within two (2) months will give you priority handling; however, you do have the full six (6) month response period, if necessary).
The applicant must respond to a priority action within 6 months from the date the priority action is mailed. If the applicant fails to do so, the application will be declared abandoned. Please note that examining attorneys have no discretion to extend the time for filing a response to an office action.
3. Office Action
An office action is a letter in which an examining attorney sets forth the legal status of a trademark application. In such a letter, an examining attorney will inform an applicant if the search of the Trademark Register yielded any conflicting marks. The examining attorney will also send an office action to issue substantive refusals to registration (such as a likelihood of confusion, mere descriptiveness, etc.) that arise, as well as to make any procedural requirements.
Applicants must respond to an office action within 6 months from the date the office action is mailed. If applicants fail to do so, their applications will be declared abandoned. Please note that examining attorneys have no discretion to extend the time for filing a response to an office action.
There are two types of office actions: non-
4. Suspension letters
A suspension letter suspends the action on an application. An application may be suspended for a variety of reasons [such as a likelihood of confusion with a pending application]. These include waiting for the disposition of a cited prior pending application to be determined or waiting for an assignment of ownership to be recorded. Applicants do not have to respond to suspension letters.
How to Respond to Office Actions
There is no set form or required format for responding to an office action. Applicants should address each issue raised by the examining attorney.
Responses to office actions must be received within 6 months from the mailing date on the office action. There are no extensions to this deadline. Examining attorneys have no discretion to extend the time period for filing. If applicants do not submit a timely response to an office action, their applications will be declared abandoned.
Responses to office actions may be submitted online using an electronic form through TEAS (Trademark Electronic Application System) , and by facsimile or regular mail.
Responding to Final Office Actions (Trademarks)
A Request for Reconsideration is necessary after issuance of a final Office action and must be submitted before the deadline for filing an appeal. The filing of a Request for Reconsideration does not extend the time for filing an appeal or other proper response to the final action. 37 C.F.R. §2.64(b). A Notice of Appeal is a different form that you must file separately to preserve your right to appeal the final refusal, if appropriate. See http://estta.uspto.gov. If you file a Notice of Appeal concurrently with a Request for Reconsideration, your application will be referred to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) for processing of the appeal. The TTAB will (1) acknowledge the appeal; (2) suspend further proceedings with respect to the appeal (including the applicant’s time to file an appeal brief; and (3) remand the application to the examining attorney for review of the Request for Reconsideration. TMEP §715.04; TBMP §1204.
Answering Office Actions
There are few canned answers on how to answer trademark office actions because there are few typical refusals, (ornamental refusals for clothing being one exception). General advice in answering office actions does not take actual applications into account. Registration of a trademark is specific to the facts involved and involves legal rights (it is Not Just a form).
Some refusals are dependent not only on the trademark being proposed (very fact specific) but also on how the application is filled out, especially the specimens submitted. Sometimes just a better specimen is all it takes (this is often the answer for an ornamental refusal). Sometimes a better identification of goods and services. Sometimes parts of the trademark must be disclaimed. Sometimes the applicable law must be examined and arguments made that are very specific to the actual words and designs being proposed. It depends on what is being refused and why.
Not every office action has an answer, some proposed trademarks just do not comply with U.S. Trademark Law because they are conflicting marks and someone else has prior rights to that mark. Some trademarks lack a minimum level of distinctiveness, lack acquired secondary meaning or the capability of acquiring secondary meaning. In these cases, sometimes secondary meaning can be proved, distinctiveness can be argued, or registrations may be amended to the Supplemental Register.
If you have received a refusal, even if you don’t pursue answering the office action and seeking registration, it may be valuable to your firm to evaluate if you should even keep using the mark. A new party seeking registration puts diligent trademark owners on notice for potential infringers and clearing up the registration issues may also clear up potential infringement issues. In other words, a new party applying for a trademark that conflicts with an already registered mark is giving national notice of an intent to infringe or perhaps actual use in commerce that is infringing. Some new parties receive cease and desist letters before their applications are even examined and are forced to expressly abandon their applications or face lawsuits.
If your trademark has value and you want to save the money that you have already invested and secure more rights through federal registration, call us at 1-
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