Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The TMEP: Not Fully Linked, And Not Lovin' It

The PTO's web-published Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP) is an enjoyable convenience and offers considerable guidance in the complexities of trademark application, examination, issuance and post-issuance issues. The electronic version of the TMEP present on the USPTO website comes with a useful index, allowing for fairly easy searches.

The problem -- for me -- relates to the TMEP's limited linkage to cited authority. The TMEP cites to itself (that is, to sections within the TMEP), and these internal cites come with a hot link for ease of travel through the document. There are also hot links to general references within the PTO and WIPO websites. But there are no links to citations to the Lanham Act, to sections within the Code of Federal Regulations, nor to cited TTAB opinions. Why? Why is it not possible for the TMEP to include hot links to the Lanham Act? To the CFR? To cited cases, including TTAB opinions that appear on the PTO's website? These links are readily available and easily accomplished.

If I access the TMEP via the PTO's website while on my laptop, I am forced to leave the TMEP page and hunt for referenced sections of the Lanham Act and the CFR in separate databases, web pages or discs. The TMEP's citation to TTAB opinions is particularly troubling. Not only are there no hot links to these TTAB opinions, that are stored in the PTO's computer system, but the citations provided are usually to USPQ (and a few times also to a federal circuit and U.S. Supreme Court citation).

The lack of links to TTAB opinions referenced solely by USPQ citations forces me to either pay a fee to Lexis or Westlaw, or undertake a cumbersome search for the opinion through the TTAB search screen. The search on the TTAB search screen is difficult due to the lack of any other search information, such as serial number, registration number, TTAB number or trademark, except for party name. If I'm lucky, only one TTAB case is produced under the searched name using the TTAB search screen. If I'm not lucky, multiple cases are produced and I have to work my way through the search results to find the cited TTAB opinion. Sometimes, this is not easy.

Isn't it about time that the TMEP becomes fully functional by providing hot links to the Lanham Act, CFR and TTAB opinions, all of which are readily available for free to the PTO? This would not be that difficult to do, and the benefit to users of the TMEP would be significant.

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