Trade Mark Bullies

The US Patent and Trademark Office requested comments from small businesses victimized by “trademark bullies” and has published its report/recommendations based upon comments received. In addition, there have been calls for Senate hearings about trademark bullying. A “trademark bully” is a trademark owner that uses its trademark rights to harass another business beyond what the law might be reasonably interpreted to allow.  Oftentimes, trademark owners with deep pockets are able to threaten litigation as a means to coerce settlements from smaller, third party importers, distributors, and retailers.  In response to the comments received, there was no suggestion of chastising IPR owners who purportedly “bully” smaller companies; rather the report merely suggested that small businesses be better educated about trademark rights and have the ability to engage pro bono counsel.