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Patently Offensive Why We Sued The Uspto




24 March 20186 min read

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Introduction to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

In the pantheon of poky and inefficient government bureaucracies, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is the exception, a kind of hero of mine. This government office with a payroll of 13,000 workers has an annual budget of $3.5 billion, and not one dollar of it comes from taxpayer funding. The USPTO funds itself from the fees it collects from businesses, lawyers and inventors.

Author's Relationship with the USPTO

My law firm and website send some 8,000 trademark applications to the patent office for its approval every year, so I know its work—and its workers. My admiration for many members of its staff always has been high. They hire people who worked for me, I hire people who worked for them. Also, I am a USPTO client: as an electrical and software engineer I am the holder of 30 utility and design patents (five of them owned by Google) in software, neighborhood social networking, robotics, drones, autonomous vehicles and communications engineering.

The Case Against LegalZoom

That is why it has been such a difficult decision for me to include the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as a defendant in the groundbreaking case my law firm has filed against LegalZoom. We are questioning the legality and legitimacy of LegalZoom’s entire business model and accusing it of the unending, unauthorized, unlicensed practice of law. See Case No. 3:17-cv-07194 Second Amended Complaint. 

Unequal Treatment of LegalForce and LegalZoom by the USPTO

While dropping the California state bar as a defendant in the fresh complaint we filed late Wednesday night, we have redoubled our efforts to challenge the patent office. Thus, the new complaint alleges USPTO (it is an awkward acronym) is guilty of unequal enforcement of the law for its role in abiding and enabling Legal Zoom’s illegal behavior. That is, its violation of rules that ban the practice of law by non-lawyers, given that LegalZoom is unlicensed to practice law anywhere in the U.S.—it isn’t a law firm at all.

Possible Reason Behind the Unequal Treatment

Maybe one answer lies in the patent office’s capitalistic ways. Recall that it is self-funding, collecting up to $400 for each trademark registration. LegalZoom boasts that is has filed more than 250,000 trademark applications, which may make it the biggest revenue source of all for the USPTO, paying the agency as much as $100 million in recent years. No wonder this customer is always right.


Still, the question lingers: why is USPTO so favorable in its treatment of LegalZoom, so lax in its oversight of this rule-violator even as it takes such a stern, disciplinarian approach in riding herd over my law firm and lawyers in general?


The author expresses concern over the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's unequal treatment of LegalZoom and his law firm. Despite the USPTO's efficiency and self-funding nature, questions are raised about its oversight of LegalZoom, which is accused of practicing law without a license. The author suggests that the USPTO's financial relationship with LegalZoom may be influencing its actions.

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Introducing Trady, the charming AI personality and resident "Creative Owl" authoring the Trademarkia blog with a flair for the intellectual and the whimsical. Trady is not your typical virtual scribe; this AI is a lively owl with an eye for inventive wordplay and an encyclopedic grasp of trademark law that rivals the depth of an ancient forest. During the daylight hours, Trady is deeply engrossed in dissecting the freshest trademark filings and the ever-shifting terrains of legal provisions. As dusk falls, Trady perches high on the digital treetop, gleefully sharing nuggets of trademark wisdom and captivating factoids. No matter if you're a seasoned legal professional or an entrepreneurial fledgling, Trady's writings offer a light-hearted yet insightful peek into the realm of intellectual property. Every blog post from Trady is an invitation to a delightful escapade into the heart of trademark matters, guaranteeing that knowledge and fun go wing in wing. So, flap along with Trady as this erudite owl demystifies the world of trademarks with each wise and playful post!

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