Trademark applicants and registrants will be required to file trademark applications and related documents using the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) according to a new final rule issued by the USPTO.  Under the new rule, paper and fax submissions will no longer be accepted, with a few limited exceptions.  Applicants still may not submit official documents to the Office through email — electronic filing is limited to the TEAS system.  

The new rule takes effect on February 15, 2020.  Going forward, new applications and most related submissions must be submitted electronically through TEAS.  In accordance with the new rule applicants must provide and maintain an accurate email and domicile address where the owner may be reached, along with an accurate email and postal address for the attorney responsible for the case, if any.  It is worth noting that much of this information will become part of a public record viewable on the USPTO website.

To accommodate privacy concerns, the USPTO suggests providing your domicile address only in the initial application forms and the “Change of Address or Representation” form, using the dedicated field in the “Owner Information” section.  The TEAS initial application forms and Change Address or Representation form include a “Mailing Address” field, which may include a PO Box or care-of address — If you don’t want your domicile address to be viewable by the public, you must provide a mailing address that differs from your domicile address since this mailing address will be publicly viewable.

There are some limited exceptions to the new rule.  If you filed an application or registration maintenance document on paper or using TEAS Regular before February 15, 2020, you are not required to use TEAS for submissions related to that application or registration due to its grandfathered status.  However, applicants should be aware — if a TEAS form is submitted in a grandfathered application or a post-registration maintenance document, then the application or document will lose its grandfathered status and all future submissions must be submitted electronically through TEAS.

There are also a few limited circumstances under which the USPTO may accept paper submissions:  

  • if the applicant or registrant is of a country that is a member of the Trademark Law Treaty (TLT), but not the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks (STLT);
  • if the submission is a particular type of specimen for a non-traditional mark (such as a scent that cannot be submitted electronically);
  • if the submission is supported by a petition to the Director; or
  • if the USPTO deems it appropriate to waive certain requirements of the rules because of widespread TEAS unavailability, a postal-service interruption, or other serious emergency, such as one related to a natural disaster.

The new rule is aimed to increase the processing speed of applications and reduce clerical errors.  The Trademark Office notes that electronic submissions do not require the same level of manual processing that paper filings necessitate.  Thus, the new rule is expected to reduce processing time and reduce opportunity for error in the processing queue.   

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