Don’t look now, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is about to hit a major milestone: we are only 24,819 registrations away from the magic number 5,000,000. The only thing more incredible than that number is the inexplicable lack of news media coverage. Maybe now that the primaries are over, the USPTO will finally get the attention it deserves.
5 million registrations is a big number. The number itself is remarkable, but what is more noteworthy is the sudden speed at which S.S. Trademarkia is steaming ahead. The first trademark registration issued on August 30, 1870. Registration number 50,000 did not issue until 36 years later. From there, the numbers rose steadily throughout the Twentieth Century, beginning to level out in the late 2000s:
- 36 years to get to Reg. No. 500,000 (1948)
- 26 more years for Reg. No. 1,000,000 (1976)
- 14 years for Reg. No. 1,500,000 (1988)
- 8 years for Reg. No. 2,000,000 (1996)
- 5 years for Reg. No. 2,500,000 (2001)
- 4 years for Reg. No. 3,000,000 (2005)
- 3 years for Reg. No. 3,500,000 (2008)
- 3 years for Reg. No. 4,000,000 (2011)
- 3 years for Reg. No. 4,500,000 (2014)
While the period from 2008 – 2014 appeared relatively steady, the numbers have picked up. Looking at the Trademark Office’s own analysis (based on fiscal year), the number of Certificates of Registration issued from 2009 onward are:
- 2009: 180,520
- 2010: 164,330
- 2011: 177,661
- 2012: 182,761
- 2013: 193,121
- 2014: 206,555
- 2015: 208,660
- 2016: 210,000** (Projecting through Sept. 30 end of FY 2016 based on current rates)
That is a lot of registrations. And we’re getting more and more each year. In fact, Certificates of Registration are issuing at a rate of about 4,500 per week. That’s a pace of 234,000!
At this rate, it’s hard not to wonder whether we’re about to run out of trademarks. In fact, some industries, like the beer industry, already seem to be running into this issue (although “Esoteric Historical Event Brew” sounds like a crowd pleaser to me, NPR).
But even if we’re slowly approaching absolute zero of trademarks, we won’t get there before Reg. No. 5,000,000 issues. With that in mind, I’ll go out on a limb and make a bold prediction: trademark registration number 5,000,000 will issue on July 19, 2016.
More important than getting the date right, though, is making sure that the mark that gets the coveted 5,000,000 actually deserves it. There have been a lot of duds over the years for the milestone registrations. Past recipients of the honor include Reg. No. 4,000,000 for POCKET SOCKET for hand tools (really imaginative, Everhard), Reg. No. 3,000,000 for the mark TOT FINDER, which is unfortunately not registered for a GPS-enabled potato finder, Reg. No. 2,000,000 for BODY WISE for bags and briefcases (not terrible, but it’s cancelled! New rule: milestone registrants are required to stay in business and continue to sell their products, renew their registrations, no exceptions).
Thankfully, Reg. No. 1,000,000 comes in strong:
Why yes, that is the background design from a Sweet‘N Low low calorie sugar substitute. Pretty iconic mark, even though it is frequently infringed upon by music score manufacturers with as many legal consequences as calories.
Other than Sweet’N Low, though, none really jump out as being particularly deserving. So, to the extent you’re reading USPTO big wigs, if you could find a way to casually slip one of my client’s applications in between 4,999,999 and 5,000,0001, I’d be very grateful. I’d be happy to draft the Milestone Registrant Rule if it’ll free up some of your time.