The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) is an administrative tribunal within the USPTO.
This body functions like a court for trademark matters at the USPTO. The board is authorized to determine a party’s right to register a trademark with the federal government, but not to determine whether you have the right to use a trademark. Neither is the TTAB authorized to determine questions of trademark infringement or unfair competition, or award money damages or attorney’s fees. For decisions other than determining the right to federal registration, a case must be filed in federal or state court.
The three main categories of proceedings that the TTAB handles are: oppositions, and cancellations, and appeals.
An opposition is a party objecting to your application to register a mark, after publication in the Official Gazette. Typically, these are filed by a party who believes it would be damaged by registration of your mark. The most common claim is a likelihood of confusion between the trademarks.
A three-judge panel will issue a decision after both sides present evidence and make arguments before the board.
Cancellation is a proceeding similar to Opposition, but where opposition happens before a mark is registered, cancellation is a proceeding to cancel an already registered trademark.
This is a proceeding to appeal the decision of a USPTO examining attorney. If an examining attorney refuses to register your mark for various legal reasons, you may appeal to the Board. A three-judge panel will review the application file, including all communications between the applicant and examining attorney and issue a written decision. Be aware it is difficult for an applicant to win an appeal, and the procedures can be very complex.
Concurrent use is federal trademark registration of the same mark to two or more unrelated parties, with each party having a registration limited to distinct geographical areas. This registration is accomplished by filing a Concurrent Use application, or by converting an existing application to a concurrent use application, and then going through a concurrent use proceeding with the TTAB.
Inter partes (Latin for ‘between the parties’) proceedings are trial proceedings conducted at the Board between two parties. Oppositions and Cancellations are both inter partes proceedings.
Ex parte (Latin for ‘from the party) are legal proceedings with only one party, such as in an appeal.