USPTO Drops Its Demands For Applicants' Green Cards
from the begrudgingly-slides-back-into-its-own-lane dept
The US Patent and Trademark Office’s side venture into immigration enforcement has come to an abrupt end. It recently instituted a US attorney requirement for foreigners filing trademark applications with the Office. This was apparently done to limit the flow of bogus trademark applications, a large number of which originated in China.
This wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the USPTO started requiring examiners to verify the immigration status of non-US citizens applying for trademarks. It was no longer enough to provide some form of address verification, like a utility bill. The USPTO was now demanding proof of permanent residence, which would limit applications by non-US citizens living in this country to green card holders.
Notably, the USPTO does not require applicants to be legal residents of the United States. And only recently did it even require applicants from foreign countries to retain a US attorney for filing.
After receiving a bit of backlash for branching out into immigration enforcement, the USPTO is backing down on its demands for green cards. Paul Singer of WGBH (who broke the original story) has more details on the rollback.
Friday morning, the trademark office scrapped the guidance and issued new instructions that dropped any reference to immigration status. The new guidelines to staff say only that an applicant may be asked to provide proof of residence at the U.S. address, such as a lease or a utility bill.
The new instructions also remove provisions that would have required foreign applicants declaring U.S. addresses to provide proof of legal status even if they had obtained a U.S. trademark attorney. The change makes it clear that proof of address is only needed in cases where the applicant does not have a U.S. attorney.
This walk-back indicates the USPTO was looking to be in the immigration business but had trouble getting examiners to buy in on the new focus. If it was a wholly legitimate directive, there’d be no reason to alter it so soon after its enactment. Now that this directive has been clarified, examiners can go back to doing their actual job — fielding ridiculous trademark applications — and stop worrying about whether they’re going to have to start sharing cubicle space with ICE officers.