The Patent And Trademark Office Is Apparently Branching Out Into The Immigration Enforcement Business

from the unified-front-against-a-persistent-threat-or-whatever-the-fuck dept

Here’s another one of those weird signs of the time. Under any normal presidential administration, this move by the US Patent and Trademark Office might look a bit strange. But only a bit. There are some legitimate reasons for doing this, but filtered through the administration’s xenophobia, it seems to be just another way to hassle non-citizens. (h/t Jef Pearlman)

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is facing a backlash from its own staff and questions from Congress, WGBH News has learned, after it issued new instructions this month that seem to require trademark examiners to ask some applicants for proof of legal residence in the U.S. — an immigration provision that the examiners say has no role in trademark approval.


Examiners were instructed that a foreign citizen applying for a trademark who declares a U.S. address as their “domicile” must provide proof of “lawful permanent residence.” The instructions note, “Foreign citizens must comply with U.S. visa immigration laws to claim the U.S. as their permanent legal residence.” That language — “permanent legal residence” — generally refers to a green card.

According to the USPTO, this is being done to thwart application stuffing by Chinese applicants. There has been a massive increase in trademark applications from China over the past four years, rising from 3.1% of all applicants to over 15% of the total this year.

This is the valid reason to be double-checking the nationality of applicants, especially if the USPTO suspects China is flooding the office with fraudulent applications.

But that’s not what’s being checked. No one looking at the nationality. They’re looking at the immigration status of the applicants. The unofficial standard being applied is green card and up. There’s already a requirement that all trademark applicants must be represented by an attorney from the United States. But there’s no requirement that applicants need to be citizens or green card holders to submit applications.

In fact, the USPTO says as much:

“We do not require immigration status as part of an application,” USPTO Press Secretary Paul Fucito said in response to questions from WGBH News.

But that’s not what examiners are saying:

Trademark examiners who work for the office say they are not so sure that is still true.

The US lawyer requirement is relatively new. It was instituted on August 3. This should help decrease the number of fraudulent applications headed towards examiners since it’s unlikely a practicing attorney would willingly participate in fraud.

But if examiners are actually digging up immigration paperwork as part of the examination process, something has gone off the rails. There are plenty of visa holders that shouldn’t have their applications discarded simply because they don’t meet the bar of permanent resident. If this is common practice, it means someone towards the top has been convinced (or told that) foreigners are flowing into this country to take our jobs trademarks.

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Comments on “The Patent And Trademark Office Is Apparently Branching Out Into The Immigration Enforcement Business”

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Anonymous Coward says:

What exactly is trademark fraud? I would say the vast majority of trademark registrations are pointless or never actually used. Are they just trying to trademark common words in an attempt to leverage that against existing companies? Unlike patent trolling that seems unlikely to work enough for it to be a viable business model. I remember people trying to trademark 1-1-2000 in the attempt to "own" the date for when paraphernalia was created for New Years but I don’t think anyone actually was able to get anyone to pay up for it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Or look, more Leftist rag B.S., administration’s xenophobia!!! Oh you mean, Booting people out of this country ILLEGALLY!!! Something OBAMA did far, far more of!!! In fact, those pictures you see of people in cages, CAME FROM THE OBAMA administration!!!

It’s also not just coming here ILLEGALLY, but it’s the other crimes they end up doing. Such has getting, using FORGED documents. Using other people’s Social Security Numbers, Dead or alive. In fact, that is why the 600+ people in the Poultry Company got busted.

We accept people from ALL AROUND THE WORLD want to get into this country that do it LEGALLY. Cutting the line is completly unfair to those doing things the right away. The TDS this site has is quite bad. The LIES being written are just that, LIES.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What does any of that have to do with trademarks?

I get the argument for enforcing immigration law, but from a legal standpoint, you don’t need to be a legal resident of the U.S. to get a trademark in the U.S. You don’t even need to physically exist in the U.S. to do so. For example, a Japanese business that either sells physical goods in the U.S. or offers something over the internet that is accessible in the U.S. has a perfectly valid reason to register their trademark(s) at the USPTO to protect their brand here even if none of their businesses, subsidiaries, owners, or employees have ever been on U.S. soil; they still do business here.

So why do trademark examiners or the USPTO need to know the legal residency/citizenship status of the person submitting the registration, exactly? It’s none of their business as it has absolutely nothing to do with trademark law. I don’t expect the EPA to enforce immigration law or IP law, so why should the USPTO be enforcing immigration law?

The extent to which illegal immigration is a problem in the U.S. is completely irrelevant here.

OneUSnerd says:

This is getting ridiculous

What a pathetic joke. Next the government is going to force foreigners to go through a U.S. attorney to register a .com. Force foreigners buying a house to purchase through a “real estate agent”. It sounds like some trademark attorneys at the top are trying to create a playground for attorneys with regards to foreigner trademarks. This regulation feels very communist cough cough “China” but not “America”. Land of the free, not so much — go get a lawyer. Next joke!

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