Wednesday, July 19, 2006

TTAB Sanctions Leo Stoller: Vacates All Extensions Granted Since November 2005

In an Order issued on July 14, 2006 and signed by Chief Judge J. David Sams, the TTAB has sanctioned Leo Stoller for his "misuse of the TTAB's procedures" by filing more than 1,800 requests for extension of time to oppose since November 2005. The Board, in its 15-page letter addressed to Stoller, found that the filings were made "for improper purposes, namely, to harass the applicants to pay you to avoid litigation or to license one of the marks in which you assert a baseless claim of rights."

Leo Stoller

The Board consequently vacated "[t]he approval of each request for extension of time to oppose that you have filed since November 2005." Moreover, any notice of opposition filed by Stoller against any of the involved marks "shall be dismissed."

In addition, for the next two years, Stoller is banned from filing, on his own behalf or as an officer, director, or partner of any entity that he controls, any request for extension of time to oppose. This ban applies regardless of whether Stoller is represented by an attorney.

After that two-year period, Stoller is PERMANENTLY barred from such filings, but an attorney may file a request on his behalf.

In response to the Board's show cause order issued on April 26, 2006, Stoller argued that he had met the standard for filing extension requests because his requests "are not based upon the potential opposer being damaged by a registration, but are based upon the potential opposer merely having a opportunity to investigate the facts ...." The Board observed, however, that Stoller had failed to provide "information regarding any specific steps you have taken with regard to any application for which you have obtained an extension of time to conduct such an investigation."

The Board based its sanction Order on Rule 10.18, which provides that a party (whether or not an attorney), by filing a paper with the Board, represents that "[t]he paper is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass someone or to cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of prosecution before the Office," and that "[t]he claims and other legal contentions therein are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law or the establishment of new law." Rule 10.18(b).

The Board particularly noted Stoller's claim that he owns several thousand trademarks, listed at his "rentamark" website.

"... the exhibits from your website do not demonstrate your offering for sale any goods or services, other than the 'rental' of the marks themselves, nor do the website exhibits demonstrate the use of any of the asserted terms as trademarks. These excerpts from your website, rather than evidencing support of any purported claim for damage, reinforce the conclusion that you are holding up thousands of applications in an attempt to coerce applicants to license, i.e., 'rent,' trademarks to which you have not demonstrated any proprietary right."

The Board also took umbrage at Stoller's intimation, in the letters that he sent to applicants, that the individual's consent to a further extension is presumed unless the individual objected. The Board found this approach to be "indicative" of Stoller's motivation in filing the many extension requests.

"your contact letters, providing misinformation as to the requirements for the final extension request permitted under Trademark Rule 2.102(c)(3), support the finding that the extension requests at issue here were filed for improper purposes, specifically '... to obtain additional time to harass applicant, to obtain unwarranted extensions of the opposition period, and to waste resources of applicant and the Board.'" [quoting Central Mfg., Inc. v. Third Millennium Technology, Inc., 61 USPQ2d 1210, 1216 (TTAB 2001)].

Finally, the Board indicated that "the question of broader sanctions will be revisited if you commit further improprieties in proceedings before the TTAB."
TTABlog Update: At his blog this morning, Leo Stoller posted the following statement, which I quote verbatim:

WASHINGTON--THE TRADEMARK TRIAL AND APPEAL BOARD HAS ENTERED AN ORDER sanctioning Leo Stoller. "You have been granted 90-day extensions of time to oppose more than 1800 applications. The effect has been to delay by at least three months the issuance of trademark registrations for each of those applications..." As a sanction the Board has entered a two-year prohibition on filing extensions requests and require attorney representation for any future extensions requests..." Immediately upon receipt of the sanction order Stoller filed an Appeal with the Federal Circuit and an emergency motion to stay the entry of any sanctions pending the resolution of the Federal Circuit Appeal. The essence of the Board sanction is based solely upon the fact that Stoller filed "1800" extensions. There is no Board rule that limits the amount of extensions a party not violate an file. The Board did and cannot point to any Rule that Stoller violated.

Stoller is absolutely confident of receiving a fully and fair hearing before the Federal Circuit and that after such hearing Stoller will be vindicated, because Stoller did not violate any Board Rule. In fact the Board order represents a clear violation of Stoller due process and equal protection rights under the 5th and 14th Amendments of the US Constitution.

This is not the first time that the US Government has falsely accused a citizen and it will not be the last. Fortunately the US Constitution provides equal protection under the law and is the citizen's best shield for such unconstitutional attack on a citizen rights.

Maybe in the future the Board will come up with an acceptable number of extensions that it will permit a party to file and state in law what is an excessive number. Presently no such rule exists. Consequently, the sanctioning of a party for the mere filing of some arbitrary number of extensions is clearly arbitary and unconstitutional. Stoller is confident that the Federal Circuit will not let the said unconstitutional sanctions against Stoller stand.



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