Can anyone commence a trademark cancellation proceeding before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office? Must you have a tie or other relation to the mark being canceled? As a Trademark Lawyer practicing in Miami, Florida, I've been asked this question more than once by a client who desires to cancel a U.S. trademark registration.
On the issue of standing to institute a cancellation proceeding, 15 U.S.C. § 1064 [Section 14 of the Trademark Act] states that a petition to cancel a registration of a mark, stating the grounds relied upon, may, upon payment of the prescribed fee, be filed as follows by any person who believes that he is or will be damaged, including as a result of dilution under section 43(c), by the registration of a mark on the principal register ... Further, 37 CFR § 2.111(b) states that any person who believes that he, she or it is or will be damaged by a registration may file a petition, addressed to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, for cancellation of the registration in whole or in part.
The term "damage," as used in Sections 13 and 14 of the Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1063 and 1064, concerns specifically a party's standing to file an opposition or a petition to cancel, respectively. A party may establish its standing to oppose or to petition to cancel by showing that it has a "real interest" in the case, that is, a personal interest in the outcome of the proceeding and a reasonable basis for its belief in damage. See Ritchie v. Simpson, 170 F.3d 1092, 50 USPQ2d 1023, 1025 (Fed. Cir. 1999) and TBMP § 309.03(b). There is no requirement that actual damage be pleaded and proved in order to establish standing or to prevail in an opposition or cancellation proceeding.See Cunningham v. Laser Golf Corp., 222 F.3d 943, 945, 55 USPQ2d 1842, 1844 (Fed. Cir. 2000).
A real interest in the proceeding and a reasonable belief of damage may be found, for example, where plaintiff pleads (and later proves) a claim of likelihood of confusion that is not wholly without merit. See Lipton Industries, supra; Metromedia Steakhouses, Inc. v. Pondco II Inc., 28 USPQ2d 1205, 1209 (TTAB 1993). Also, a real interest in the proceeding and a reasonable belief of damage may be found if Plaintiff pleads that Plaintiff has been refused registration of its mark because of defendant's registration, or has been advised that it will be refused registration when defendant's application matures into a registration, or has a reasonable belief that registration of its application will be refused because of defendant's registration. See Cerveceria Modelo S.A. de C.V. v. R.B. Marco & Sons, Inc., 55 USPQ2d 1298, 1300 (TTAB 2000)
Interestingly, however, if Plaintiff has a bona fide intent to use the same mark for related goods, and is about to file an intent-to-use application to register the mark, and believes registration of the mark will be refused in view of respondent's registration, this satisfies the "damaged" requirement. See American Vitamin Products Inc. v. Dow Brands Inc., 22 USPQ2d 1313, 1314 (TTAB 1992).
Therefore, a party seeking to cancel a U.S. trademark registration at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has a variety of options available when attempting to satisfy the standing and therefore the "damaged" requirement for commencing a trademark cancellation proceeding.