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The Federal Circuit Building’s Circuitous History

Posted in Law Suits, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

I had the opportunity this week to attend an oral argument at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington this week (#humblebrag). I quickly came to realize that, like so many things in trademark law, the Federal Circuit’s location has a convoluted history unto itself.

Nevermind that the Federal Circuit itself is only 35 years old – a conglomeration of the former Court of Customs and Patent Appeals and the Court of Claims. The Federal Circuit currently sits in the Howard T. Markey National Courts Building, just a stone’s throw away from the (apparently decrepit) White House. In the courtyard of the Markey Building, we quickly discovered some prominent evidence of the site’s illustrious history:

My colleague Tom Boyd is reading the information with great interest in the photo above. For those lacking preternatural vision, the first plaque reads in part as follows:

On this site Commodore John Rodgers built an elegant house in 1831. In it on April 14, 1865 an attempt was made to assassinate W.H. Seward, Secretary of State by one of the conspirators who murdered Abraham Lincoln the same night. The Hon. James G. Blaine afterward bought the house and died here. The Lafayette Square Opera House was erected of steel skeleton construction, stone, terra-cotta, magkite and brick by U.H. Painter, C.E. to prove that an opera house can be made safe at all times from fire and panic. It was six months in building and was opened for business on September 30, 1893. This tablet was placed here by the daughters of U.H. Painter, A.D. 1902.

(A savvy move by the Painter family to provide more valuable plaque space to the fire-proof opera house than, say, the Lincoln assassination.) The far more discreet plaque below notes various additional details, including that William Seward used the site to sign the treaty with Russia to purchase what became the State of Alaska (a/k/a Seward’s Folly), and the history of the building after its stint as an opera house, and before it was razed in 1964 to make way for the current structure.

So in sum, dissatisfied trademark applicants (or parties to a TTAB proceeding) may appeal their grievances to the site of a fire-proof opera house and an assassination attempt.