Flat Fee Top Trademark Trend Predictions for 2018
Trademark filings serve as something of a bellwether for business and economic trends. As trademark attorneys, we get an inside look at new and emerging industries based on the frequency of filings for certain goods or services. Always popular? Clothing, cosmetics and computer software, including mobile apps. This month, we consider some of the less obvious trademark trends we noticed in 2017 and which ones we expect to continue, or emerge in 2018.
When Amazon launched the Amazon Brand Registry program last year, it afforded some level of trademark protection for the thousands of retailers and storefronts that use the platform. Amazon sellers had been clamoring and grumbling for trademark protection within the Amazon framework for some time, and the online giant finally followed through.
The Amazon Brand Registry allows owners of registered and pending federal trademarks to verify their brand ownership and record their trademarks with Amazon. This allows manufacturers and resellers looking to protect a trademark on Amazon to have stronger brand protection and enforcement rights in the event of a dispute concerning trademark infringement.
Since the Amazon Brand Registry requires sellers to have a registered trademark, or pending trademark application on the Principal Register with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (or one of several other international intellectual property offices), the Brand Registry created major trademark momentum in 2017. We observed a significant increase in Amazon sellers seeking federal trademark protection for their brand names and trademarks in order to qualify for the Registry.
With the increased popularity of dropshipping and more prospective entrepreneurs getting into Amazon selling, we expect the Amazon trend to continue full force in 2018.
With Bitcoin spiking to record valuation towards the end of 2017, many investors and skeptics of digital currencies were forced to pay attention. And perhaps acknowledge that digital currency and the associated technology known as “blockchain” were viable long-term investments after all. Those in the know doubled down on their faith in crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum. While there hasn’t been a huge rush to register trademarks for coins themselves, there has been notable increase in applications to protect corollary services such as digital currency exchanges, blockchain technology companies and cryptocurrency consulting and educational services.
While the future of Bitcoin and digital currencies remains tempestuous and tenuous as regulators worldwide mull how to treat these commodities, we expect positive trademark growth for digital currencies and blockchain technology services through 2018.
Artificial Intelligence and Robotics
It would be an understatement to say artificial intelligence is all around us. From Siri to Alexa to home monitoring devices that tell us when it’s time to buy milk, and virtual reality headsets that engross us in simulated worlds, there is no denying that the future of artificial intelligence (AI) is now. There wasn’t just a trend towards AI in 2017, there was a boom in trademark protection for all manner of AI and VR technologies, software and equipment. The giant tech companies (Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook) are leading the way, but more and more technology companies and start-ups are jumping in with myriad offerings in the AI and VR space. Needless to say, we expect efforts to protect AI and VR technology to continue unabated for 2018 and well beyond.
Marijuana (medicinal or otherwise) is still illegal on the federal level. Therefore, it is impossible to obtain a federal trademark for any product or services that violates the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The CSA makes it unlawful to sell, offer for sale, or use any facility of interstate commerce to transport drug paraphernalia, i.e., “any equipment, product, or material of any kind which is primarily intended or designed for use in manufacturing, compounding, converting, concealing, producing, processing, preparing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance, possession of which is unlawful under [the CSA].” This includes marijuana, since it is classified as a Schedule 1 drug under the CSA.
Nonetheless, increased deregulation on the state level has led many canna-businesses to seek federal trademark protection for at least something. Hopeful that the federal government will eventually loosen its regulations and re-classify marijuana under the CSA, there has been an increase in trademark applications to protect permissible goods and/or services, such as pipes, vaporizers, baked goods, supplements, and retail sales, none of which explicitly reference marijuana, but are ultimately intended for that market.
This strategy provides business owners with some level of brand protection and ownership in the event the federal government ever acknowledges the inevitability of the industry and agrees to change the federal trademark laws.
Despite the recent trend at the USPTO of pulling back trademark protections that were permissible just a little over a year ago (e.g., for cannabinoid goods that do not contain any psychoactive properties of marijuana), we expect continued growth in trademark applications to protect cannabis related goods and/or services, albeit without explicitly saying so.
So there you have it. Our forecast of trademark trends we expect to continue into the new year. Did we miss something? Drop us a line and let us know about your industry trends for 2018. If you need advice or assistance protecting your trademark or brand name on the federal level, please contact us for a complimentary consultation with one of our trademark attorneys.