Trademark Board Says It Can Referee Trump Trademark Disputes

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By Anandashankar Mazumdar

A Patent and Trademark Office board Aug. 18 rejected the suggestion it is too biased to resolve a dispute over some of President Donald Trump’s trademarks ( Prospector Capital Partners, Inc. v. DTTM Operations LLC , TTAB, No. 92063494, 8/18/17 ).

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board denied a motion by Nevada-based Prospector Capital Partners Inc., which wants to register “Trump Your Competition” for a marketing and advertising consultancy, to vacate its rulings and transfer the matter to a federal district court in California.

Prospector said that because the TTAB’s administrative trademark judges are appointed by the secretary of commerce, who is in turn appointed by the president, the board cannot fairly sort out fights over Trump’s trademark registrations. The board disagreed.

“There would exist entire categories of applications and registrations” that the TTAB couldn’t rule on, if it accepted that argument, the board said. “Such a state of affairs would be absurd.”

Prospector Capital Partners filed its registration application in 2013. It petitioned the board in April 2016 to cancel seven trademark registrations held by DTTM Operations LLC, a Trump entity, on abandonment grounds. The board ruled that Prospector failed to properly show that it had standing to pursue cancellation. Prospector responded by filing a motion to disqualify the board.

The board denied the motion and gave Prospector 20 days to re-file its petition addressing its standing to ask for cancellation of the Trump registrations.

Trump and his relatives have applied for and own numerous trademarks around the globe. Critics argue those trademarks pose conflicts of interest for the president.

A lawsuit by a public advocacy organization includes Trump-owned trademark registrations in China as an example of the president’s violation of the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the president from receiving benefits from a foreign government.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar in Washington at AMazumdar@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek at mwilczek@bna.com

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