TMEP 1201.02(c): Correcting Errors in How the Applicant Is Identified
October 2017 Edition of the TMEP
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1201.02(c) Correcting Errors in How the Applicant Is Identified
If the party applying to register the mark is, in fact, the owner of the mark, but there is a mistake in the manner in which the name of the applicant is set out in the application, the mistake may be corrected by amendment. U.S. Pioneer Elec. Corp. v. Evans Mktg., Inc., 183 USPQ 613 (Comm’r Pats. 1974). However, the application may not be amended to designate another entity as the applicant. 37 C.F.R. §2.71(d); TMEP §803.06. An application filed in the name of the wrong party is void and cannot be corrected by amendment. 37 C.F.R. §2.71(d); see Huang v. Tzu Wei Chen Food Co., 849 F.2d 1458, 7 USPQ2d 1335 (Fed. Cir. 1988); Great Seats, Ltd. v. Great Seats, Inc., 84 USPQ2d 1235, 1244 (TTAB 2007); In re Tong Yang Cement Corp., 19 USPQ2d 1689 (TTAB 1991).
Correctable Errors. The following are examples of correctable errors in identifying the applicant:
- (1) Trade Name Set Forth as Applicant. If the applicant identifies itself by a name under which it does business, which is not a legal entity, then amendment to state the applicant’s correct legal name is permitted. Cf. In re Atl. Blue Print Co., 19 USPQ2d 1078 (Comm'r Pats 1990) (finding that Post Registration staff erred in refusing to allow amendment of affidavit under 15 U.S.C. §1058 to show registrant’s corporate name rather than registrant’s trade name).
- (2) Operating Division Identified as Applicant. If the applicant mistakenly names an operating division, which by definition is not a legal entity, as the owner, then the applicant’s name may be amended. See TMEP §1201.02(d).
- (3) Minor Clerical Error. Minor clerical errors such as the mistaken addition or omission of "The" or "Inc." in the applicant’s name may be corrected by amendment, as long as this does not result in a change of entity. However, change of a significant portion of the applicant’s name is not considered a minor clerical error.
- (4) Inconsistency in Original Application as to Owner Name or Entity. If the original application reflects an inconsistency between the owner name and the entity type, for example, an individual and a corporation are each identified as the owner in different places in the application, the application may be amended to clarify the inconsistency.
Example: Inconsistency Between Owner Section and Entity Section of TEAS Form: If the information in the "owner section" of a TEAS application form is inconsistent with the information in the "entity section" of the form, the inconsistency can be corrected, for example, if an individual is identified as the owner and a corporation is listed as the entity, the application may be amended to indicate the proper applicant name/entity.
Signature of Verification by Different Entity Does Not Create Inconsistency. In view of the broad definition of a "person properly authorized to sign on behalf of the [applicant]" in 37 C.F.R. §2.193(e)(1) (see TMEP §611.03(a)), if the person signing an application refers to a different entity, the USPTO will presume that the person signing is an authorized signatory who meets the requirements of 37 C.F.R. §2.193(e)(1), and will not issue an inquiry regarding the inconsistency or question the signatory’s authority to sign. If the applicant later requests correction to identify the party who signed the verification as the owner, the USPTO will not allow the amendment. For example, if the application is filed in the name of "John Jones, individual U.S. citizen," the verification is signed by "John Jones, President of ABC Corporation," and the applicant later proposes to amend the application to show ABC Corporation as the owner, the USPTO will not allow the amendment, because there was no inconsistency in the original application as to the owner name/entity.
- (5) Change of Name. If the owner of a mark legally changed its name before filing an application, but mistakenly lists its former name on the application, the error may be corrected, because the correct party filed, but merely identified itself incorrectly. In re Techsonic Indus., Inc., 216 USPQ 619 (TTAB 1982).
- (6) Partners Doing Business as Partnership. If an applicant has been identified as "A and B, doing business as The AB Company, a partnership," and the true owner is a partnership organized under the name The AB Company and composed of A and B, the applicant’s name should be amended to "The AB Company, a partnership composed of A and B."
- (7) Non-Existent Entity. If the party listed as the applicant did not exist on the application filing date, the application may be amended to correct the applicant’s name. See Accu Pers. Inc. v. Accustaff Inc., 38 USPQ2d 1443 (TTAB 1996) (holding application not void ab initio where corporation named as applicant technically did not exist on filing date, since four companies who later merged acted as a single commercial enterprise when filing the application); Argo & Co. v. Springer, 198 USPQ 626, 635 (TTAB 1978) (holding that application may be amended to name three individuals as joint applicants in place of an originally named corporate applicant which was never legally incorporated, because the individuals and non-existent corporation were found to be the same, single commercial enterprise); Pioneer Elec., 183 USPQ 613 (holding that applicant’s name may be corrected where the application was mistakenly filed in the name of a fictitious and non-existent party).
Example 1: If the applicant is identified as ABC Company, a Delaware partnership, and the true owner is ABC LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, the application may be amended to correct the applicant’s name and entity if the applicant states on the record that "ABC Company, a Delaware partnership, did not exist as a legal entity on the application filing date."
Example 2: If an applicant is identified as "ABC Corporation, formerly known as XYZ, Inc.," and the correct entity is "XYZ, Inc.," the applicant’s name may be amended to "XYZ, Inc." as long as "ABC Corporation, formerly known as XYZ, Inc." was not a different existing legal entity. Cf. Custom Computer Serv. Inc. v. Paychex Prop. Inc., 337 F.3d 1334, 1337, 67 USPQ2d 1638, 1640 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (holding that the term "mistake," within the context of the rule regarding the misidentification of the person in whose name an extension of time to file an opposition was requested, means a mistake in the form of the potential opposer's name or its entity type and does not encompass the recitation of a different existing legal entity that is not in privity with the party that should have been named).
To correct an obvious mistake of this nature, a verification or declaration is not normally necessary.
Non-Correctable Errors. The following are examples of non-correctable errors in identifying the applicant:
- (1) President of Corporation Files as Individual. If the president of a corporation is identified as the owner of the mark when in fact the corporation owns the mark, and there is no inconsistency in the original application between the owner name and the entity type (such as a reference to a corporation in the entity section of the application), the application is void as filed because the applicant is not the owner of the mark.
- (2) Predecessor in Interest. If an application is filed in the name of entity A, when the mark was assigned to entity B before the application filing date, the application is void as filed because the applicant was not the owner of the mark at the time of filing. Cf. Huang, 849 F.2d at 1458, 7 USPQ2d at 1335 (holding as void an application filed by an individual two days after ownership of the mark was transferred to a newly formed corporation).
- (3) Joint Venturer Files. If the application is filed in the name of a joint venturer when the mark is owned by the joint venture, and there is no inconsistency in the original application between the owner name and the entity type (such as a reference to a joint venture in the entity section of the application), the applicant’s name cannot be amended. Tong Yang Cement, 19 USPQ2d at 1689.
- (4) Sister Corporation. If an application is filed in the name of corporation A and a sister corporation (corporation B) owns the mark, the application is void as filed, because the applicant is not the owner of the mark. Great Seats, 84 USPQ2d at 1244 (holding §1(a) application void where the sole use and advertising of the mark was made by a sister corporation who shared the same president, controlling shareholder, and premises as the applicant).
- (5) Parent/Subsidiary. If an application is filed in the name of corporation A, a wholly owned subsidiary, and the parent corporation (corporation B) owns the mark, the application is void as filed because the applicant is not the owner of the mark. See TMEP §1201.03(b) regarding wholly owned related companies.