TL;DR: A trademark application must be signed by someone with both knowledge of the facts of the application. If the owner of the mark is a corporate entity, the authority to bind the corporation.
As the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grows ever more vigilant against the possibility of fraudulent parties filing Federal trademark registration applications, the agency has developed a set of rules requiring that only the right persons apply their signatures to trademark registration applications.
Federal Trademark Registration Applications: Signatures Are Required
The USPTO requires that each paper filed in connection with a Federal trademark registration be either personally signed or be signed electronically exactly in a very specific manner.
Where the signature on the trademark application is applied electronically, it must appear between two forward slash marks (“/”) in the signature block on the trademark application (or any other electronically filed pleading).
Both the first and last name, along with the title or position of the person signing, must appear with the signature.
Federal Trademark Registration Applications: The Proper Persons to Sign
Who is the proper person to sign a trademark registration application?
It depends upon what trademark registration paper is being filed.
The Trademark Registration Application Verified Statement of Facts
The Verified Statement of Facts is the portion of the Federal trademark registration application that sets forth:
In other words, the Verified Statement contains the meat of the Federal trademark application.
This Verified Statement must be signed by, first, by someone with the legal authority to bind the owner of the trademark.
What does that mean?
Obviously, if you, a natural human person, are filing an application for trademark registration on your own behalf in your own name, as individual owner of the trademark, this simply means you sign your own name.
You, of course, have the ability to “bind” yourself to a contract or other legal obligation or undertaking. (In this case, you are “binding” yourself to a statement made under penalty of perjury that all of the facts asserted in the trademark registration application are true.)
However, if the owner of the proposed mark is a corporation or LLC or other non-human legal entity, the trademark registration application must be signed by an employee or agent of that entity with the legal authority to bind or obligate that entity.
This generally will mean a corporate officer and not, say, the company janitor, or even a middle manager of some sort.
It will be a Sole Member in an LLC, both general partners in a partnership, a CEO, CFO, or other director, or every principle of a joint venture agreement.
However, it could also be an attorney—a company’s in-house counsel in particular—so long as the attorney holds an actual or written power of attorney or an implied power of attorney from the owner.
This would not mean that the owner’s trademark attorney (the one preparing and filing the application), necessarily, if not interior to the entity’s organization.
The signatory of the Statement of Verified Facts may need to testify as to those facts in a contested trademark registration application proceeding, and an outside trademark registration attorney would not be able to do that.
Trademark Registration Office Action or Opposition Responses, Amendments to Applications, and Requests for Express Abandonment, Reconsideration of Refusals, and other Requests
An Office Action is a refusal by the USPTO examiner to allow the trademark registration application to proceed.
These sorts of trademark registration pleadings must likewise be signed by the owner of the proposed trademark and someone like with legal authority to bind the owner.
These pleadings must be signed by an attorney where required if the owner is represented by counsel.
Attorneys must sign, include their State of licensure, license number, and the number of years that they have been licensed to practice.
Trademark Registration Powers of Attorney and Revocations of Powers of Attorney
The Power of Attorney is the section of the Federal trademark registration application which confirms that the owner is being represented by a licensed US attorney.
Only a licensed US attorney can represent a party before the USPTO, or the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board (TTAB).
An online form-filling service such as Legal Zoom is not a licensed attorney and cannot represent you when and if the Examiner assigned to your file by the USPTO files an Office Action refusal or a third party make owner opposes your registration.
A Power of Attorney or Revocation of Power of Attorney must be signed by an individual owner or someone, again, with the power to bind the corporate entity owner—or all owners in the case of joint trademark registration applications or general partnerships.
Only once an owner has designated a qualified trademark lawyer to represent him/her/it, then the attorney may sign pleadings documents until and unless that power is revoked by the owner.
A Revocation of Power of Attorney removes the attorney’s authorization to sign documents for filing with the USPTO.
Petitions to Revive Abandoned Trademark Registration Applications
A trademark registration application may be deemed “Abandoned” by the USPTO for a variety reasons.
The trademark application may be abandoned for the owner’s failure to respond to an Office Action refusal, for failure to file a Statement of Use, for filing an incomplete Response to an Office Action, or for failure to respond to a suspension inquiry.
Once a trademark registration application is Abandoned, it can no longer progress toward final registration.
However, if the Abandonment was unintentional, the owner may submit a Petition to Revive the Abandoned trademark registration application.
A Petition to Revive must be signed by an individual with firsthand knowledge of the facts regarding the unintentional Abandonment.
Signing Trademark Registration Applications: The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that with regard to trademark protection of your brand, it doesn’t pay to go cheap after investing all of your resources and time into the development of your brand.
Noble Path Trademark Law is a boutique US law practice located in Metro Detroit and assisting enterprises in every industry with trademark registration, trademark renewal, trademark monitoring, and Office Action refusal response matters.
We offer virtual consultations, premium customer service, and the expertise you need to maximize your odds of trademark registration success.