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Navigating the USPTO Trademark Process: The Role of Specimens in Applications and Renewals

Posted by Dragan Dan Ivetić | May 02, 2024 | 0 Comments

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Navigating the USPTO Trademark Process: The Role of Specimens in Applications and Renewals

Protecting your brand with a trademark is a smart move for any forward-thinking business owner. But when you're caught up in the hustle of building your brand, the intricacies of the USPTO Trademark Process can often be overlooked. A crucial yet commonly misunderstood step is the submission and requirement of trademark specimens for both applications and renewals. Here's why these specimens are indispensable and how a flat fee trademark attorney can guide you through safeguarding your brand.

Understanding Trademark Specimens

A trademark specimen is a real-world example of how your mark is used in commerce. It's the tangible evidence that shows the USPTO, and in turn, potential customers, that your mark is actively being used on goods or services offered in the marketplace. This could be anything from product packaging with your brand prominently displayed to advertising materials to a screenshot of your online store with the mark in use. Essentially, it's proof that your mark is being used in a way that distinguishes your goods or services from others.

The Requirement of Specimens in the USPTO Trademark Process

The USPTO requires trademark specimens to be submitted as part of both trademark applications and renewals. Submitting appropriate trademark specimens is crucial to the success of your application or renewal. Improperly submitted specimens can result in delays, refusals, or even the cancellation of your mark. So it's essential to understand what types of specimens are required and how they should be formatted.

Types of Acceptable Specimens

The USPTO accepts both standard and non-standard specimens. 

For Trademark Applications

When filing a trademark application, you must provide a specimen that directly correlates with the goods and services listed in your application. This proves to the USPTO that your mark is not just an idea but a commercial reality. It's an essential part of the application that differentiates a serious brand owner from one not yet ready to enter the market. Your application can be refused without an appropriate specimen, leading to delays and potential additional costs.

For Trademark Renewals

Trademark owners must also submit a new specimen when seeking trademark renewals. This ensures that the mark remains in active use and continues to be distinctive and relevant in its market. Failure to submit a current specimen can result in the cancellation of your trademark, which is a risk no business owner should take lightly as it opens the door to potential infringement without recourse. A critical thing to remember is that the specimen must depict usage of the trademark in the same manner as registered. Any deviation from the usage described in your application may lead to a refusal of renewal.

Why a Flat Fee Trademark Attorney Can Help

A flat fee trademark attorney simplifies this aspect of your brand protection strategy by offering clear-cut pricing and expert guidance on trademark specimens. Teaming up with a professional who is well-versed in what the USPTO is looking for can be an invaluable asset, especially when it comes to selecting the right specimens to accompany your application or renewal.

These attorneys can assist in:

  • Preparing and evaluating potential specimens for submission
  • Advising on the requirements and pitfalls of specimen selection
  • Ensuring that the specimens meet the latest USPTO standards
  • Navigating any Office Actions or refusals that may arise regarding your specimens

What Are Some Common Issues That Arise With Specimens?

Specimens need to be a "substantially exact representation" of the drawing of the mark according to the registration. Minor alterations may pass, but anything missing from the original mark will cause the specimen to be rejected.

There are a variety of examples of what kind of changes in the use of a trademark from the registration to the specimen would cause for that specimen to be rejected. Some of these include:

  • A typo in the specimen that makes it not match the drawing in the registration
  • Specimens that have dropped or are missing words or design elements from the original drawing in the registration
  • Any missing punctuation in the specimen as opposed to the drawing in the registration
  • The addition of extraneous words breaking up the trademark in the specimen, as compared to the drawing on file with the registration
  • Specimens that are too small or blurry, making it difficult for USPTO examiners to properly review and assess them

It is important to note that even seemingly minor changes can lead to a specimen being rejected and the failure of your trademark registration to be issued and/or renewed. Meanwhile, (per TMEP Sec. 807.14), one could amend the drawing in the registration:" The modified mark must contain what is the essence of the original mark, and the new form must create the impression of being essentially the same mark." As such, it is not a ready solution to simply amend the drawing in your registration to match the specimen better. If you can't overcome the specimen refusal, or you fail to respond to the office action by the deadline, your trademark application will go abandoned or your trademark registration will be canceled. Indeed, all of these complexities serve as really good reasons that you should always seek the advice and guidance of a trademark attorney when dealing with trademark registration or trademark renewal.


Trademark specimens are the linchpin of your application and renewal submissions to the USPTO. They serve as a beacon that your brand is alive, evolving, and maintaining its presence in the market. Ignoring their importance can lead to delays, legal complications, and even the loss of your valuable trademark rights.

Given their significance, it's no wonder that savvy business owners seek the expertise of a flat fee trademark attorney to support their trademark applications and renewals. Having an ally who not only understands the importance of specimens but can also provide cost-effective legal services, elevates your position in a competitive market and puts your brand on a robust path toward long-term success.

If you're contemplating a trademark application or are due for a renewal, don't gamble with one of your most valuable assets. Leverage our professional guidance to ensure your specimens accurately reflect your brand's uses — safeguarding your business today and into the future.

Contact us for a free initial consultation to take the next steps for your brand's protection.

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About the Author

Dragan Dan Ivetić

DRAGAN DAN IVETIĆ was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, and wanted to become an attorney to help people from a young age.  He received a bachelor's d...


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