Pedram Sameni
May 4, 2023

Patexia Insight 177: Post-Pandemic Decline: Domestic Trademark Filings Return to Pre-2020 Levels

Last week, we published our third annual Trademark Intelligence Report, which analyzes the latest trends in the trademark landscape. The report covers trademark prosecution data from filings made between January 1, 2018, and December 31, 2022, providing valuable insights into the current state of the industry. The report includes a comprehensive analysis of the most active companies, attorneys, and law firms in trademark filings. Additionally, it thoroughly examines both domestic and foreign filing patterns, office actions, pendency and allowance rates, design search codes, statuses, and other factors.

The bar chart above displays trademark filing trends in the United States from 2018 to 2022. In this study period, the USPTO processed a total of 2,510,218 trademark applications. There was a significant growth of 30.54% in 2020, and in 2021, the number of filed trademarks was similar with a slight decline of 1.56%. In 2022, 546,964 trademark applications were filed, a decrease of 19.76% from the 681,633 filed in 2021. However, it is important to note that overall filing activity in 2022 is still higher than pre-2020 levels.

As covered in Patexia 177, there has been a significant decline in trademark applications from China in 2022 for the first time in over a decade, which may be indicative of a larger trend of declining trademark filings globally. This decline has impacted the overall trend of trademark filings in the USA since China has been the most active foreign country, and its numbers have grown significantly over the past decade. As of 2022, one out of every five trademark applications filed came from Chinese entities. However, this decline does not account for all 134,669 fewer trademark applications filed in 2022 compared to 2021, making the analysis of domestic filing activity essential.

The decline in trademark filings was not limited to China, as there has been a noticeable decrease in domestic filing activity as well. The chart above illustrates the number of domestic trademark filings over the last decade, highlighting the fluctuations during this period. As expected, since U.S. companies are the most active trademark filers, the domestic trend is consistent with the overall filing trend. Except for the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, the number of domestically filed trademark applications has steadily increased over the past two decades. The data also demonstrates the impact of the pandemic in 2020, followed by a significant decrease in 2022. In 2020, there was a sharp and significant increase with 61,130 more trademark applications filed, representing a 16.86% surge in filings. However, following the increase in 2020, there were two consecutive declines in trademark filings with 3.28% and 13.46% fewer applications filed in 2021 and 2022, respectively. The recent decline in domestic filings underscores the need for a closer analysis of the trademark landscape by identifying factors that may be contributing to the fluctuations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to significant changes in the business landscape, causing widespread disruptions to many companies worldwide. With the emergence of new working conditions and shifting market trends, companies have been compelled to adopt new strategies to stay afloat. One area that has gained increased attention in recent times is the protection of intellectual property rights, particularly trademarks. The pandemic has forced many companies to embrace remote working, leading to an increase in e-commerce activities, which could expose businesses to increased risk of intellectual property theft. This may have prompted companies to file more trademark applications to protect their brands from infringement. The pandemic has also resulted in an increase in online sales, making it easier for counterfeiters and infringers to sell fake products and violate trademarks. Companies may have been motivated to file more trademark applications to prevent such infringements from occurring.

However, other factors may also be at play, including changes in policies and regulations. In late 2020, the USPTO announced new and adjusted trademark application filing fees, which took effect on January 2, 2021. While it is not clear how much of an impact the fee increase had on the subsequent decline in trademark filings in 2021 and 2022, the USPTO reported a record number of applications in December 2020, the month prior to the implementation of the fee increase. This suggests that many companies rushed to file their trademark applications before the fee increase took effect.

Lastly, the Trademark Modernization Act (TMA) was signed into law on December 27, 2020, and could potentially affect trademark filings in the United States in near future. The TMA introduced several changes to the U.S. trademark system, including new procedures for challenging trademark registrations, letters of protest, and ex parte expungement and reexamination proceedings. The aim of the changes was to make the examination process more efficient and effective and to reduce the number of applications that are filed for trademarks that are likely to be refused. While the TMA can potentially cause a decline of trademark applications by providing new tools and procedures for addressing fraudulent or misleading trademark applications, it may also have some unintended consequences. For instance, companies may be hesitant to file trademarks that they think are likely to be rejected, leading to a decrease in overall trademark applications.

It remains to be seen how the recent trend of decreasing trademark applications will continue to develop over time. However, it is possible that the reduction in filings could have a positive impact on the trademark examination process. With fewer applications to review, examiners may have more time to thoroughly evaluate each application, which could lead to an increase in the quality of trademark registrations. Additionally, a decrease in fraudulent or low-quality trademark applications may lead to a higher percentage of applications being allowed, which could in turn help to reduce the overall examination time. Nonetheless, it is still too early to determine the full effects of this trend on the trademark system, and only time will tell how it will ultimately play out.

The full Trademark Intelligence Report aims to provide unparalleled trademark intelligence to help businesses make informed decisions and stay ahead of the competition. In addition to the statistics presented in the report, there is also an accompanying Excel sheet which includes further data for the top 2,000 attorneys, law firms, and companies. This additional information includes their rankings based on activity and performance, top clients, and other relevant metrics that provide a more comprehensive view of their trademark filing activities. With this Excel sheet, users can delve deeper into the data and analyze the trends and patterns that emerge among the most active players in the industry.

Stay tuned as in the following weeks we will be covering more statistics from this report, as well as revelaing some of the most active and best-performing companies, law firms, and trademark attorneys.