In the decade of the 1880s there were 36 applications filed to register trademarks.
In the decade of the 1980s there were 592,301 applications.
In the first decade of the 21st century there were 2,612,184 applications.
Those are some pretty astonishing numbers. In fact, there has been an increase in the applications filed every decade since 1880, except for the 1930s when there was a slight decrease, presumably because of the Great Depression.
But while the number of applications has been increasing, the percentage of those applications reaching registration has been decreasing.
Every last one of the 36 applications filed in the 1880s reached registration. Wonderfully, four of them are still alive today.*
For the 1980s, only 77% of them reached registration.
And for the first decade of the 21st century, only 54% of them reached registration. Here are the data:
So, what’s going on here?
I believe there are two factors at work. First, because there are so many trademark registrations, the likelihood that a new trademark is confusingly similar to an existing trademark is much higher. It’s just a lot more likely your new trademark is similar to one of the 2,366,194 live registrations now than to one of the 36 live registrations back in 1889.
Second, there are a larger percentage of applications being filed without the use of an attorney. As a result, applicants are more likely to file applications that never stood a chance.
Bottom line: It’s hard to find a trademark that’s available. Don’t waste your money** filing an application unless you think you have a good shot.
Photo of USPTO © 2018 S. Elizabeth Birnbaum, used with permission.
*SAMSON®; WASHBURN’S GOLD MEDAL®; one of the registrations for BUDWEISER®; and a logo mark for beer consisting of a triangle.
**There were 1.2 million rejected applications in the first decade of the 21st century. That’s about $361 million in wasted Trademark Office fees.