Can I Use A DEAD Trademark?

Many trademark search databases, including TESS at the USPTO, use DEAD to describe trademark applications or trademark registrations that are no longer pending or no longer registered.

Whether they are available for someone else to safely use depends on the facts and if the marks are still in use. One common reason for a trademark to go abandoned and become a DEAD mark is failure to complete the application process or failure to complete the process correctly. While someone else may apply for a mark that is DEAD, that does not mean that the mark is safe for anyone because the mark may still be in use even if not registered. Trademark examiners do not and cannot take DEAD marks or common law marks into account when searching for Likelihood of Confusion conflicts with pending or registered mark. The owner of the DEAD or common law marks would have to pursue stopping the application themselves through an Opposition proceeding, Cancellation proceeding or in court.

One common reason why a trademark goes DEAD is FAILURE TO TIMELY FILE REQUIRED DOCUMENTS. The latest status on TSDR may read: Current Status: Registration cancelled because registrant did not file an acceptable declaration under Section 8” may mean that the mark has been abandoned and no longer in use or that the owner is still using the mark but just did not keep up with filing requirements. Another common document failure is “Current Status: Abandoned because no Statement of Use or Extension Request timely filed after Notice of Allowance was issued.” These statuses may mean that the mark has been abandoned and no longer in use or that the owner is still using the mark but just did not keep up with filing requirements such as Sec. 8 (declaration of use) or Sec. 9 (renewal) filings.

Another reason for a DEAD mark is: “Current Status: Abandoned because the applicant failed to respond or filed a late response to an Office action” may mean that the mark was merely descriptive, had an inadequate specimen, had a likelihood of confusion with pending or registered marks or other reasons. The mark may be abandoned by the owner or the owner did not competently answer the refusal or because the owner is no longer using the mark. Not completely correctly answering the refusal does not necessarily mean that the owner is no longer using the mark, only that the application had serious problems.

What does a status of "dead" or "abandoned" mean?

15 USC §1127: Abandonment of mark. A mark shall be deemed to be “abandoned” if either of the following occurs: (1) When its use has been discontinued with intent not to resume such use. Intent not to resume may be inferred from circumstances. Nonuse for 3 consecutive years shall be prima facie evidence of abandonment. “Use” of a mark means the bona fide use of such mark made in the ordinary course of trade, and not made merely to reserve a right in a mark. (2) When any course of conduct of the owner, including acts of omission as well as commission, causes the mark to become the generic name for the goods or services on or in connection with which it is used or otherwise to lose its significance as a mark. Purchaser motivation shall not be a test for determining abandonment under this paragraph.

If an application shows a status of dead or abandoned, it means THAT specific application is no longer under prosecution within the USPTO, and would not be used as a bar against your filing. However, it does not necessarily mean that there are not OTHER marks which the examining attorney would cite. Also, there is always the possibility that an abandoned application COULD be revived (e.g., if the USPTO declared the application abandoned for failure of the applicant to respond to an Office action, but the applicant establishes that a response was sent, and the USPTO simply failed to match it with the file in a timely manner, then the case will be revived). Also, regardless of the status of an application within the office, the owner may still claim common law rights. Extracted from

Many trademark verification or search services disregard trademarks that are marked DEAD in search records. Unfortunately, this does not necessarily mean that a trademark is available for someone else to use.  The Lanham Act expressly states that "[n]onuse" of a mark "for 3 consecutive years shall be prima facie evidence of abandonment." 15 U.S.C. § 1127. Itc Ltd. v. Punchgini, Inc., 482 F.3d 135 (2nd Cir., 2007). A search  or search report that is done mechanically and/or without knowledge of trademark law, may “verify” or “clear” a trademark for use that is still being used by a prior user and that prior user may still claim common law rights. A direct hit federal search or an inexpensive SAME DAY REGISTRATION service would probably not reveal this information.



§ 2.68 Express abandonment (withdrawal) of application [37 C.F.R. Part 2-Rules of Practice in Trademark Cases]

An application may be expressly abandoned by filing in the Patent and Trademark Office a written statement of abandonment or withdrawal of the application signed by the applicant, or the attorney or other person representing the applicant. Except as provided in § 2.135, the fact that an application has been expressly abandoned shall not, in any proceeding in the Patent and Trademark Office, affect any rights that the applicant may have in the mark which is the subject of the abandoned application.

Many trademark searches or trademark verifications may show that a mark is DEAD but not show that the mark was EXPRESSLY ABANDONED. In a case of express abandonment, a prior user of the mark may have sent a “cease and desist” letter to the new applicant or registrant letting them know that they would be sued or opposed if they continued the registration process any further and that continued use of the mark was intentional infringement. In this case, a DEAD mark that is an EXPRESSLY ABANDONED DEAD mark is a red flag that a potentially big problem exists with registering this mark rather than showing it is available. A quick, do-it-yourself search may not reveal this information or worse may indicate that the mark is clear. Getting a cease and desist letter early in the process may be getting off easy compared to being sued or trying to defend against an opposition or cancellation after substantial funds have been invested already.


§ 2.65 Abandonment.  [37 C.F.R. Part 2-Rules of Practice in Trademark Cases]

(a) If an applicant fails to respond, or to respond completely, within six months after the date an action is issued, the application shall be deemed abandoned unless the refusal or requirement is expressly limited to only certain goods and/or services. If the refusal or requirement is expressly limited to only certain goods and/or services, the application will be abandoned only as to those particular goods and/or services. A timely petition to the Director pursuant to §§ 2.63(b) and 2.146 or notice of appeal to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board pursuant to § 2.142, if appropriate, is a response that avoids abandonment of an application. (b) When action by the applicant filed within the six-month response period is a bona fide attempt to advance the examination of the application and is substantially a complete response to the examiner’s action, but consideration of some matter or compliance with some requirement has been inadvertently omitted, opportunity to explain and supply the omission may be given before the question of abandonment is considered. (c) If an applicant in an application under section 1(b) of the Act fails to timely file a statement of use under § 2.88, the application shall be deemed to be abandoned.

Failure to respond is the leading cause of trademark application abandonment. Only 30% of TEAS Plus applications proceed to publishing for opposition without an office action refusal (the percentage is worse for TEAS). Overcoming a refusal without knowledge and experience in trademark law is difficult and many refusals can’t be overcome even with knowledge and experience because the applications were for trademarks that have serious Likelihood of Confusion issues with registered or pending trademarks. Sometimes, the likelihood of confusion is with a junior user, someone who started using the mark later but got their application in sooner. In cases like this, a cancellation proceeding may be the answer for the senior, prior user who was late in getting their application into the USPTO.

Many  trademark problems, refusals & delays can be avoided or overcome by using Not Just Patents® Trademark Services. We do not just fill out an application and submit it, we work to protect your protectable legal rights and to keep costs as low as possible to get you less refusals and delays. We have many, many examples of common refusals that could have been avoided both by pro se applicants (no lawyer or a filing service that does not record their name on record because they are not attorneys) and applicants represented by attorneys. Call us at (651) 500-7590 and get a quote and ask for an example.

Not Just Patents ® Legal Services provide a broad range of services for Intellectual Property Protection. If you are unsure what type of product or service protection is best for your business or just have a question, please call–a brief initial consultation is free at 1-651-500-7590.  See Why Should I Have A Trademark Attorney Answer My Office Action if you have already applied and been refused.

Should You File Your Own Application

Or Answer Your Own Refusal?

It looks easy but it isn’t. About 70% of trademark applications are refused at least once. Filing a USPTO trademark application is a legal proceeding that requires an applicant to satisfy many legal requirements within strict time deadlines. An applicant for a USPTO Trademark Registration must comply with all substantive and procedural requirements of the U.S. Trademark Act and U.S. Trademark Rules of Practice when applying to the USPTO for a trademark even if the entity is not represented by an attorney. The USPTO is represented by an experienced  well-trained full-time attorney. All trademark information–Trademark Applications (applications, drawing, specimen), Office Actions, Responses to Office Actions (ROA), assignments, petitions, etc– submitted to the USPTO is public information readily available to the public including any of your investors or future potential investors.

Having a solid, enforceable trademark and trademark application and registration is a good investment. Most Not Just Patents’ clients are small businesses but we also do work for other attorneys.

Overcoming A Substantive Refusal

Not Just Patents ® Legal Services answers refusals for any of our application clients as part of the service at no extra charge. We also answer refusals for clients who have used other services and sometimes will even offer a discounted service if you used one of the form services who really messed up your application.

If an applicant is not represented by an attorney it is called pro se. A pro se applicant may be able to answer refusals themselves but keep in mind that your adversary, the USPTO trademark examiner, is a well-trained full-time attorney with experience in deciding if applications meet USPTO rules and trademark law.

If the examining attorney has refused your mark for any substantive legal reason, you are entitled to submit arguments in support of registration. If you are going to try and answer the refusal yourself, you should simply and completely address the points raised by the examining attorney in the Office Action. Applicants are not required to provide case law support but may if it is appropriate. If the examining attorney is convinced by your arguments, the examining attorney will withdraw the refusal(s). If not convinced, and assuming there are no other outstanding issues, the examining attorney will issue a final refusal.

Your options at that point are 1) appeal to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB), an administrative adjudication board and submit a request for reconsideration if appropriate; or 2) not respond, which will lead to abandonment of the application. You may still be entitled to use this mark as your "trademark" or "service mark; however, you would not have the rights associated with a federal registration. The same trademark issues that caused the refusal may also limit the rights associated with the mark under common law.

If your trademark has value and you want to preserve the rights that you have already invested in and secure more rights through federal registration, it may be best to AIM HIGHER  See Why Should I Have A Not Just Patents Trademark Attorney Answer My Office Action if you have already applied and been refused.

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