It appears that the USPTO wishes to increase the “solemnity” of the trademark application declarations in response to the Section 8 & 71 pilot project that revealed more than half of all renewals included at least partially overbroad statements of continued use. Considering that these declarations are already made under penalty of perjury, I am not sure how big an impact the increasing solemnity might have on the problem.
Even so, it seems that the PTO believes the issue is not the seriousness of the language itself, but instead that signatories may not be carefully reading and appreciating the significance of the attestations they are making. I wholeheartedly agree. The best solution, however, is not merely to restructure the paragraphs of the declaration, but to restructure the way that all text is presented throughout the TEAS forms. The declaration is just one of myriad blocks of text and warnings appearing throughout the form. The solemnity of the declaration, especially to inexperienced users, is obscured not because it is a large block of text, but because it is one of many paragraphs of legalese spread throughout the TEAS forms.
Users filling out a form within TEAS are confronted with numerous long blocks of text and various warnings, many of which are presented in garish, hard-to-read red fonts. Many of these blocks of text appear even when they are not relevant to the particular needs or choices of the user. While experienced TEAS users know what to look for, a novice user must painstakingly filter through each block of text to determine which are relevant. Nothing distinguishes those that are important from those that are not. As a result, the declarations can easily get lost in the shuffle.
If the PTO wants to ensure the solemnity of the declarations, they should start by changing the way text in general is presented throughout the forms. Distinguishing the declarations from the rest of the form would substantially increase the weight and attention users give them.
As the PTO begins the process of updating all TEAS forms, I hope it is mindful of this presentation issue. Streamlining the forms will make them more understandable and user friendly. Although the PTO must be thorough in providing information on TEAS forms for the sake of novice users, there are ways to prevent the sheer volume to information from becoming unintelligible walls of text. Perhaps the PTO might even consider multiple versions of the TEAS forms for users with differing degrees of experience.
- Erik M Pelton & John C Heinbockel on behalf of Erik M. Pelton & Associates, PLLC