The Biden Administration should enhance the efforts of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to defend against fraudulent trademark registrations. Since 2015, the PTO has struggled to cope with a rising flood of fraudulent trademark applications originating mainly from China. One study indicates that as many as two-thirds of Chinese trademark applications for certain classes of goods include falsified evidence that the applicant is using the mark in commerce in the United States — a requirement for trademark registration under U.S. law. High proportions (up to 40%) of these fraudulent applications survive the PTO’s application-review process and result in fraudulent trademark registrations.
Urgent action is necessary. The PTO reports that the trademark application rate has recently surged to extreme levels, which has doubled the number of applications awaiting examination. Many of these applications likely contain fraudulent claims of use. Identifying and denying fraudulent claims will help ensure that only those businesses that are actually using their trademarks in U.S. commerce benefit from the U.S. trademark system. In addition to creating a fair playing field for companies (both American and foreign) that abide by the rules, countering fraudulent trademark registrations will support American economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic by providing small businesses with robust protection for brand names of new products.