2020 IP Law Year in Review: Trademarks

By and on January 21, 2021
Posted In Trademarks

Executive Summary

2020 was a year like no other, so you’d be forgiven if the year’s biggest headlines in trademark law didn’t quite catch your attention. In 2020, the US Supreme Court shaped trademark jurisprudence through a trio of notable decisions. A pandemic and shelter-in-place orders pushed more consumers to virtual marketplaces, forcing brand owners, and the courts, to take a renewed look at counterfeiting and online enforcement. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has continued its strict registrability and failure-to-function assessments, and new legislation, rules and fees were directed at cracking down on fraudulent trademark applications and clearing dead weight from the USPTO register to make room for new and growing brands. A COVID-19 stimulus package just so happened to establish the standard for obtaining injunctive relief in litigation under the Lanham Act. And the year saw industry-specific developments with the potential for broader application in the field. This report provides a summary of 2020’s notable moments in trademark law with insights and outlooks for brand owners and practitioners moving into the year ahead.


  1. SCOTUS on Trademarks
  2. Courts on Counterfeits in 2020
  3. More ‘Failure to Function’ Refusals in 2020
  4. Color Me Surprised: Multicolor Marks Can Be Inherently Distinctive
  5. Trademark Law Updates – Fees, Fraud and Injunction Presumptions
  6. 2020 Industry Spotlight: Trademarks in the Alcohol Beverage Market

2021 Outlook

Looking ahead, 2020’s legislation, rules and fees impacting the USPTO and the courts may add some clarity to trademark disputes in 2021, any may also inspire brand owners to examine their approaches to trademark portfolio management, watching and enforcement to maximize budgets, clear the way for brand expansion and more efficiently handle trademark disputes. In 2021, we also expect to see further developments in the fighting of counterfeits, the interplay of trademarks and expressive works and the application of failure to function refusals, especially as we continue to see trademark filings, disputes and market trends associated with an ongoing pandemic, political unrest and overdue social justice movements. Finally, in 2021, we expect to see brands remain at the forefront of representing positivity, innovation, unity and wellness, as we all work together to accelerate out of a challenging year.

Read the full report.

Sarah Bro
Sarah Bro is the office managing partner for the Firm’s Orange County office. She focuses her practice on trademark prosecution, enforcement and brand portfolio management, as well as licensing, due diligence, copyright, right of publicity and domain name matters. Read Sarah Bro's full bio.

Eleanor B. Atkins
Eleanor (Ellie) B. Atkins focuses her practice on trademark, copyright, sweepstakes and promotions, and false advertising matters. Ellie is experienced in client counsel, strategy and legal research, including portfolio management and the selection, clearance, prosecution, registration and enforcement of trademarks. Additionally, she has assisted with district court litigation as well as actions before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, including drafting complaints, discovery requests and briefs in support of various motions. Read Ellie Atkins' full bio.