It’s a wonderful life, collaborating with brand owners and marketing teams to advance their goals.

Our work for brand owners also involves a collaboration of sorts with the U.S. Trademark Office.

We work with the USPTO to obtain registrations for our clients and this triggers USPTO obligations.

As such, when examining applications, the USPTO must search its records for conflicting marks.

It also must refuse applications for marks that are confusingly similar to prior registered marks.

Mistakes happen, but sadly, if the USPTO misses a proper refusal, the brand owner holds the bag.

So, when the USPTO doesn’t do its job well, the brand owner is put in a position to spend money.

Several weeks ago, I expressed near certainty that the USPTO would refuse registration of Kevin O’Leary’s (of Shark Tank fame) application to federally register his nicknameMr. Wonderful — given another’s well-established, federally-registered trademark rights in WONDERFUL for nuts:

Surisingly, the USPTO has issued no refusal, and the Mr. Wonderful mark -for nuts- has been approved for publication. If you’re at a loss how that can be, here is the USPTO’s search summary.

As it reveals, the “session duration” lasted 218 seconds; not a single “wonderful” mark was “viewed” during examination, yet hundreds of “mr” trademark records were, maybe even him?

The “mr” portion of the search was narrowed to focus on the nuts class of goods (IC 29), but strangely this wasn’t done for the “wonderful” portion, leading to zero “wonderful” viewed records.

Let’s just call this oversight for what it is, not exactly a wonderful trademark examination by the USPTO — literally and figuratively. The Mr. Wonderful approval — for nuts –looks like clear error.

Were we in Wonderful’s camp, we’d be thinking about a Letter of Protest to have the USPTO issue the likelihood of confusion refusal, because it costs peanuts compared to a full-blown opposition.

Trademark types, would you get crackin’ on a Letter of Protest, were you holding Wonderful’s bag?

Marketing types, how nuts would you be spending a lot more than peanuts, if the USPTO doesn’t acknowledge clear error and issue the refusal, to help make a Notice of Opposition unnecessary.

To the extent you’re in Mr. Wonderful’s camp, how would you approach a registration refusal, knowing that 15 of the 16 live “wonderful” marks at the USPTO for nuts are Wonderful’s marks?

For those of you who have been with us since the beginning of this wonderful collaboration of legal and marketing types, known as DuetsBlog, you also know we have a mascot dubbed Duey — he’s depicted in the squirrel graphic at the top of this page. Here is his story, as told by Aaron Keller on behalf of his creative team at Capsule, who brought Duey to life.

Unsurprisingly, Duey is all about protecting his nuts and the nuts of those he cares deeply about, especially those of the clients he steadfastly protects. We have embraced the graphic as a nice metaphor of what we’re best at, but we’ve only told the complete story once before, as Duey is a relatively shy little guy, and actually we prefer to see the subtlety of the graphic communicate a metaphor instead of hitting our gifted readers over the head with a coarse tagline.

More to that delicate point, spending the week in Las Vegas — the city that knows no such thing as subtlety and proud home of the SHOT Show 2015 — has unearthed lots of blog fodder, so here’s the first we’ll share:

The harshly worded tagline reminds me of a topic we have talked about more than a few times here: The art of subtlety as compared to “hitting the consumer over the head” with an idea.

Subtlety is more often rewarded in the world of predicting the existence and scope of trademark rights, that’s one reason we favor suggestive over descriptive trademarks, and we have reminded marketing types to avoid the D-word at all cost.

Perhaps the one time when subtlety should be discarded is when you’re operating in the world of non-traditional trademarks, given the benefits of using overt “look-for” advertising.

By the way Duey, is coming up on his sixth birthday March 5th, right on the heels of his golden birthday celebration last year, any ideas on what he might enjoy doing this year?