Monday, August 21, 2006

'Art Of The Start' & Getting Trademark Approved By USPTO

Guy Kawasaki is a well known VC, author, former Apple Fellow, Mac evangelist, and many other things. I have known him by email for a decade and had a delightful meeting with him a few weeks ago. He writes a really interesting and educational blog, for anyone wanting to succeed, to do a new business, start a new company, and his book ART OF THE START is a great way for entrepreneurs or people starting ANYTHING new to do the best job they can. (DISCLAIMER: I have the honor of being mentioned in the credits of the book, and Guy did send me a free copy then, but I also bought some later and gave to friends. You really should get a copy.)

Anyway, one of the topics that Guy wrote about in his blog was getting Trademark protection from the US Patent and Trademark Office. I had just gone through a bit of an experience on that, so I shared it with his readers. I wrote:

"Just because you did a good search and found valid examples of trademarks that should enable you to corner a particular type of phrase, the trademark office is stupidly inconsistent.

I have a file open there right now, and had them reject (or demand to change/agree to release exclusive claim to) a set of words that NO ONE else is using in their marks AND the USPTO has issued similar TYPES of phrase for others.

e.g. I wanted "Secretary On Demand", for my service, they refused, but ONLY cited magazine articles citing words like "outsourced help when needed", "help available on demand" etc.

Despite my insistence, the examiner who called me was unable to give an answer for why they had no problem issuing "FUEL ON DEMAND" as a trademark (and many other such examples)! Isn't EVERY gas station in the world providing fuel on demand? She could not answer that. Doh.

Inconsistency, thy name is USPTO."

A few days later, I got the expected note from the USPTO (whose examiner had been very polite and courteous when I spoke to her on the phone) telling me why they would not allow my application as is, though they gave even more generic names to other companies. That in itself was not unusual. What annoyed me was that during this time, the USPTO shamlessly sells my name and information to patent attorneys and other purveyors of services, who, for a few thousand Dollars, will probably get approval for me what I, as a law-abiding, rule-following applicant was refused.

Growing up in Pakistan I recall how government departments would have complex policies forcing people to find "middlemen" to pay to get things done. That sleazy practice is best seen at work in NY's (and I am sure other states') traffic courts (e.g. in one place you have to show up like 5 AM to get a chance to get IN just to get a chance to be heard... )

AND even before terror alerts, they did not allow cell phones OR laptops, basically ensuring that no one with precious time would want to go through the process. Not surprisingly, right outside reps of Traffic Court attorneys were handing out cards. I recall, I had actually been pulled over and ticketed ( hare Nassau county cops) for "missing a yield sign" half a mile from where the cop pulled me over.

A few days later I happened to go by the area and realized... there was NO yield sign at that spot. I had been falsely ticketed. Yet, I had to go to court with the photo to prove that. I got there at 8 AM and found 200 people ahead of me, and was told, no laptop, no cell phone and I had to stand in the sun waiting to get INSIDE and would most likely have to wait until 5 PM or so.

Frustrated, I took a lawyer's card, called him, sent him the info, and after giving my credit card number, I waited. A few weeks later, I got a letter confirming that my ticket had been thrown out... and that simple act of justice cost me nearly $300 in attorney fees, not to mention time and hassle of having one to stand in line that first day. Who knows how that $300 got divided up.. I am sure the attorneys don't give the judge $150 to do what they would have done anyway, had I stood there 10 hours waiting for my turn.

I would not be surprised if this nefarious system works with the government departments making it impossible for people to get justice or action, and grudgingly paying hundreds of Dollars to the lawyers, who probably spend some of that money wining and dining the officials, or playing Golf with them....

At least, to the credit of Pakistanis, they cut out these middlemen. You pay the "baksheesh" directly and get the work done working straight with the damned judge or bureaucrat. Saves time for everyone without enriching the lawyers, doesn't it.

What do you think? Do you have an example of how the system is designed for citizens to be forced feed a nefarious system based on backdoor dealmakers?


Anonymous said...

Do I know of an example of organized corruption (your "nefarious system" involving "backdoor dealmakers")? Whoa, dude -- there are numerous examples, even in a supposedly just society like the United States of America. (Actually, it's amazing how the world manages to achieve any good things at all.)

To all Americans: Get more comfortable with the idea that your country is just as imperfect and fallible as the next nation. This way you won't make the mistake of thinking an American who criticizes his country is being unpatriotic.

IMRAN™ said...

Frances, as usual, another great comment. Thanks.