Abolishing the Missing-Claim Rule for Judicial Cancellations

37 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2009 Last revised: 17 Feb 2011

See all articles by Ryan G. Vacca

Ryan G. Vacca

University of New Hampshire School of Law

Date Written: September 14, 2009


This article questions why some courts that have already found a federally registered trademark invalid refuse to cancel the registration despite having the authority to do so under § 37 of the Lanham Act. Examination of cases involving judicial cancellations reveals that a failure to assert cancellation as a claim, as opposed to a variety of other methods of requesting cancellation, is the reason courts refuse to exercise their power under § 37 - referred to as the missing-claim rule. This article criticizes the missing-claim rule as illogical and frustrating trademark law's purpose and proposes the missing-claim rule be abolished, that courts should invoke their power under § 37 sua sponte, and that on appeal, a failure to cancel under § 37 when invalidity has been established would be considered a per se abuse of discretion. These proposals complement trademark law's underlying policy, appropriately balance the burdens on the courts and U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, and do not present the typical objections to sua sponte action. In addition, these proposals can be adopted without amending the text of § 37, although an amendment is suggested if the courts refuse to adopt such practices.

Keywords: trademark, servicemark, cancel, cancellation, cancelation, registration, register, 37, lanham act, TTAB, registration, claim, sua sponte, efficient, efficiency, invalid, invalidity, obx, missing-claim, generic, descriptive, functional, principal register, issue preclusion, claim preclusion, consumer

JEL Classification: A19, D61, K10, K19, K20, K29, K39, K49, M39, Z00

Suggested Citation

Vacca, Ryan G., Abolishing the Missing-Claim Rule for Judicial Cancellations (September 14, 2009). Texas Intellectual Property Law Journal, Vol. 18, p. 297, 2010, U of Akron Legal Studies Research Paper 2010, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1431019

Ryan G. Vacca (Contact Author)

University of New Hampshire School of Law ( email )

Two White Street
Concord, NH 03301
United States
603.513.5291 (Phone)

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