Trademark disputes are primarily resolved in two forums: United States District Court or the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board is an administrative tribunal of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Final decisions from the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board are reviewed by either the United States Court of Appeals or a United States District Court.
Even though certain presumptions apply in a TTAB proceeding that are not available in a District Court case, from a cost perspective, a TTAB proceeding is a lot like a lawsuit in District Court. Everyone has sticker shock when they first learn how much a TTAB proceeding or District Court case may cost. To take a TTAB proceeding all the way to a final decision could cost $300,000 or more. To take a District Court case to a final decision could cost $500,000 or more. And these costs do not include any appeal costs.
How do these numbers breakdown? Here is an example budget for a TTAB proceeding:
- Legal Research/Analysis/Investigation $10,000 – $15,000
- Preparation and filing of the Notice of Opposition $3,000 – $4,000
- Initial Disclosures and Discovery Conference $1,000 – $1,500
- Fact Discovery $20,000- $30,000
- Motion Practice $10,000 – $15,000
- Motion for Summary Judgment $25,000-$35,000
- Expert Discovery $50,000 -$80,000
- Preparation of Pretrial Disclosures $2,000 – $3,000
- Notice of Reliance, Trial Depositions, Rebuttal $40,000 – $60,000
- Preparation of Trial Brief and Rebuttal Brief $30,000 – $40,000
- Prepare for and attend oral hearing $15,000-$20,000 Total fee estimate: $206,000 – $303,500
Motions for summary judgement are usually not pursued and more often than not expert discovery is unnecessary in a TTAB proceeding. Nevertheless, you are still talking about a six figure bill when it is all said and done. And a District Court case is going to be more.
The problem with any type of litigation is that you cannot control how the other side will litigate. Take fact discovery as an example in a TTAB proceeding. Each side is allowed 75 Interrogatories. An Interrogatory is simply a written question answered under oath. Because of the presumptions that apply in a TTAB matter, 75 Interrogatories is way more than any party needs. By contrast, the default number of Interrogatories for each party is 25 in a District Court case and the presumptions don’t apply.
Nevertheless, unless the other party will agree to serve less than 75 Interrogatories, you may be in a position of having your attorneys prepare answers for 75 written questions. And rarely does a party agree to serve less discovery than what the rules allow.
Trademark disputes are avoidable if you conduct a trademark search before adopting a mark.