Confirmatory Deed Of Assignment Uk

There are certain recurring forms of agreement in the IP world that remain a bit of a mystery to me. Perhaps none is more puzzling than the so-called "confirmatory assignment." For my sins, perhaps, after a long hiatus, I encountered several versions of confirmatory assignment over the last month.

This got me to thinking about the why and what of a confirmatory assignment, assuming that the putative confirmation relates to an unwritten assignment of rights that took place at an earlier point in time. So what are my difficulties with a confirmatory assignment? Let me mention the following:

1. Depending upon the applicable IP rights and related law of contract of the jurisdiction, to what extent can an unwritten agreement validly assign IP rights?

2. Assuming that an unwritten assigment is valid, what is the evidentiary showing that is required?

3. Can one record an unwritten assignment on, e.g., the appropriate patent or trade mark registry? If so, what proof is required?

4. Is the evidentiary showing different in connection with establishing the validity of the assignment in the context of a transaction?

5. How can a purchaser receive sufficient comfort about the validity of the assignment, or is it a matter of risk allocation depending upon the positon of the parties?

6. Does the standard of evidence to establish an unwritten assignment differ once again in the context of a court proceeding?

7. Does the standard of evidence to establish an unwritten assignment differ yet again iin the context of taxation?

8. Is a confirmatory assignment a form of ratification?

9. If it not a form of ratification, what is the proper legal characterization for the agreement?

10. In light of all of the foregoing, does the confirmatory assignment confer any benefit to the parties, other evidentiary or substantive?
Any readers with thoughts about these questions are urged to share them.

By Lanning G. Bryer

I. MEANS OF ACQUIRING INTANGIBLE ASSETS
II. CONDITIONS TO CLOSING
III. CLOSING DOCUMENTS
IV. CLOSING DAY
V. POST-CLOSING ISSUES
VI. CONCLUSION

The deal is virtually done. All that remains is for the parties to “close” the deal. A common definition of a “Closing” date is that date upon which all conditions precedent set forth in an agreement must be satisfied. What seems like a relatively simple and quick process can be anything from short and sweet to long and painful. The three most important skills for the attorney attending a Closing to exercise in order to achieve a successful Closing are anticipation, preparation and organization. If all necessary documents have been prepared and issues anticipated and addressed, the Closing can be seamless. Furthermore, good organization on a complex transaction can make what would be a long, drawn out-process much smoother and more efficient. The following paper identifies and then discusses many of the most common issues to arise during the Closing and post-Closing of a business transaction involving trademark rights.

[1] Lanning G. Bryer, a partner in the New York office of the law firm Ladas & Parry, has written extensively on intellectual property issues. The author acknowledges the assistance of Scott J. Lebson, Esq., an associate in Ladas & Parry’s New York office, in the writing of this paper, which was first presented by Mr. Bryer at the INTA’s Trademarks in Business Transactions Forum in New York City, February 25-26, 2002. Mr. Bryer can be reached via e-mail at lbryer@ladasparry.com. Copyright © 2002 by Lanning G. Bryer. All Rights Reserved

I. MEANS OF ACQUIRING INTANGIBLE ASSETS

In many instances, it is critical to understand the transfer of intellectual property as an essential aspect of a larger transaction, not simply the transfer of intellectual property rights by itself. On the other hand, intellectual property is very often the predominant factor driving mergers and acquisitions. The transaction should be construed in the context of a sale of an entire business in which those intangible assets are used. Generally, businesses are sold either by the purchase of the stock in a corporation or though a purchase of assets used by the business to be sold. Under either scenario, two basic sets of documents, an “acquisition agreement” and “transfer documents” will be prepared and negotiated.

II. CONDITIONS TO CLOSING

Buyer and Seller typically specify conditions that must be present or events that must occur before they are obligated to consummate the deal. A Seller typically makes representations and warranties about the business as of the date that the acquisition agreement is executed, but that date may be weeks or months prior to Closing, especially if antirust or other regulatory approvals are required in order to close the transaction. The Buyer will typically require that at Closing, the Seller warrant that the representations are still true. If certain statements are no longer true, the Buyer might have the option of declining to go through with the transaction as specified. Other conditions of Closing may reflect issues that come to light during the negotiation of the agreement. For example, in a stock sale, if the Buyer learns certain trademark rights are not owned by the corporation whose stock is being acquired, it may require that those assets either be transferred to the corporation before Closing or directly to the Buyer at Closing. If the Seller does not comply, the Buyer will not be obligated to buy the stock of the corporation.

III. CLOSING DOCUMENTS

A. PURCHASE AGREEMENT:

1. Further Assurances

B. GENERAL TRADEMARK ASSIGNMENT AGREEMENT

1. Assignment – Goodwill – United States of America
2. Assignment – Goodwill – Worldwide
3. United States Issues – Intent-to-Use Applications – Verified Statement of Use
4. Intent-to-Use Applications – Amendment to Allege Use
5. Intent-to-Use Applications – Agreement to Continue Prosecution until Verified Statement of Use filed

C. CONFIRMATORY ASSIGNMENT DOCUMENTS FOR RECORDAL IN THE RELEVANT JURISDICTIONS WHERE TRADEMARK RIGHTS EXIST

1. Worldwide Recordal of Intellectual Property Rights
2. Separate Documents for Each Jurisdiction are Required.
3. Costs

D. COMMERCIAL LOAN DOCUMENTS
E. TRADEMARK SECURITY AGREEMENT
F. RELEASE AGREEMENTS
G. OPINION LETTERS
H. LICENSE AGREEMENTS
I. ANCILLARY AGREEMENTS AND OBLIGATIONS 

A. PURCHASE AGREEMENT:

In most instances, the Purchase Agreement does not actually effectuate a transfer of assets from Seller to Buyer. Instead, it merely embodies the Seller’s promise to sell stock or assets to the Buyer under certain terms. The consummation of the transaction takes place at the Closing or at a later date (post-Closing) when the parties execute transfer documents and any other ancillary agreements. This is especially true in terms of trademark rights due to their territorial nature. This may dictate a number of specific procedures which are governed by the law of each individual jurisdiction in which the trademark rights exist.

1. Further Assurances

Trademark rights require specific confirmatory assignment and other

documentation to be prepared in accordance with local trademark practice for filing at the relevant Trademarks Office. Additionally, the documents required to be submitted in many jurisdictions frequently change or new requirements are added. Therefore, it may be necessary for the Seller to execute additional documentation subsequent to Closing.

In many instances, the Buyer may not be notified that it is required to submit additional documentation from the Seller until weeks or months after the Closing. Trademark rights in certain jurisdictions may not be capable of being transferred due to current political difficulties (e.g., Iraq, Libya or Afghanistan). Therefore, the Buyer may wish to make certain that the Seller (or its successors or assigns), is required to cooperate and execute such documentation.

“Further Assurances” clauses are critical in order to make certain that when this contingency arises, the Buyer can be in a position to seek Seller’s cooperation. Cooperation from the Seller is especially critical in transactions involving large trademark portfolios where the Buyer may require the Seller’s cooperation in execution of additional documents post-Closing on several occasions. The Buyer may need to ensure that it maintains an officer capable of executing documents post-Closing, especially where the corporate entity acquiring the rights changes its corporate structure by merger or acquisition.

B. GENERAL TRADEMARK ASSIGNMENT AGREEMENT

The General Trademark Assignment Agreement is the master assignment

agreement which conveys “equitable title” to all trademark rights which are identified in a schedule, usually attached as an exhibit. In many instances, this schedule can be quite extensive as it should identify all trademarks, including common law rights, pending applications and granted registrations being transferred for each jurisdiction. This document is executed at the Closing and should bear an effective date as of the Closing date, unless the specific circumstances of the transaction dictates otherwise. The General Trademark Assignment Agreement serves several purposes:

(1) to clearly set forth and identify all trademark rights being assigned;
(2) to demonstrate to tax authorities that equitable or beneficial title has passed to the Buyer;
(3) to make certain that certain technical requirements unique to trademark practice are met, such as the transfer of goodwill, in order to cure any such deficiencies in the Purchase Agreement;
(4) sets forth the acknowledgment of rights;
(5) contains representations and warranties;
(6) sets forth the obligation to execute other confirmatory documents;
(7) contains further assurances clauses;
(8) sets forth possible retention of rights; and
(9) can be used for general corporate purposes.

1. Assignment – Goodwill – United States of America

In the United States, a trademark cannot be assigned separate and apart from the “goodwill” it symbolizes. In addition to existing case law reinforcing this traditional requirement, the Lanham Act specifically requires that the goodwill associated with a trademark accompany any transfer of the trademark itself. Section 10 of the Lanham Act provides:

“[a] registered mark or a mark for which an application to register has been filed shall be assignable with the good will of the business in which the mark is used, or with that part of the good will of the business connected with the use of and symbolized by the mark.”

A trademark is considered merely a symbol of goodwill and has no independent significance apart from the goodwill associated therewith. Attempts to transfer trademarks without the associated goodwill of the business have been characterized as “assignments in gross” and are invalid.

The public policy behind the requirement for transferring the goodwill of the business in conjunction with the trademark itself is to prevent use of a trademark with a different goodwill and different product which may result in deception upon the consumer public. The requirement that goodwill accompany the trademark ensures that a transferee’s use will not be deceptive and will not break the continuity of the goodwill associated therewith.

2. Assignment – Goodwill – Worldwide

However, unlike the United States, many jurisdictions throughout the world do not impose a similar goodwill requirement in conjunction with the assignment of trademarks. In fact, the majority rule worldwide is that trademarks may be assigned without the goodwill. There are basically three categories worldwide in which the transfer of trademarks may or may not be transferred with goodwill. These comprise countries which:

(a) allow unfettered assignments of trademarks;
(b) allow assignments with or without the goodwill but impose an advertising requirement; and
(c) impose a goodwill requirement such as the United States.

In view of the above and the conflicting laws with respect to the transfer of goodwill, the General Trademark Assignment Agreement should specifically address the category of goodwill being transferred.

3. United States Issues – Intent-to-Use Applications – Verified Statement of Use

The Lanham Act allows for the application of trademarks based upon a bona fide intent-to-use the trademark at a later date. Although the Lanham Act allows for the assignment of intent-to-use (ITU) applications, it also imposes specific requirements limiting the circumstances in which they may be validly transferred. Section 10 of the Lanham Act provides:

“[n]o application to register a mark under section 1051(b) (intent-to-use applications) of this title shall be assignable prior to … the filing of the verified statement of use….except for an assignment to a successor to the business of the applicant, or portion thereof, to which the mark pertains, if that business is ongoing and existing.”

Essentially, this statute requires that either use of the mark is made (along with the proper filing of the Verified Statement of Use with the Patent & Trademark Office) or the entire business associated with the intent-to-use trademark applications has been transferred before the assignment can be considered valid.

For those instances where intent-to-use applications cannot be made subject to the assignment, either because the application has not been converted to a use-based application by the filing of an Amendment to Allege Use or the Verified Statement of Use has not or cannot be filed because use has not and will not be made by the Seller and the Buyer cannot make bona fide use of the trademark within the required time periods, it may be necessary for the parties to agree to abandonment of the application by the Seller. Towards that end, the Buyer should negotiate an undertaking on behalf of the Seller to file the necessary documentation at the USPTO to expressly abandon the intent-to-use application and not to interfere with any new applications for the trademark filed by the Buyer. Potential difficulties in adopting this approach include:

(a) loss of priority; and
(b) the potential for third party objections to any new applications for the trademark which may be subsequently filed based upon priority of use.

4. Intent-to-Use Applications – Amendment to Allege Use

If use of the trademark has been made, it may be possible to file an “Amendment

to Allege Use” before the application is published for opposition, together with evidence of the assignment in order to convert this intent-to-use application into a use-based application. Once this documentation has been received and officially processed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, this would allow for assignment of the application.

5. Intent-to-Use Applications – Agreement to Continue Prosecution until Verified Statement of Use filed

If the application has already been published for opposition and it is too late to file an Amendment to Allege Use, the parties can simply agree to allow the prosecution of the intent-to-use application to continue unfettered by the Seller until such time as the Verified Statement of Use is filed. At that point, assignment of the intent-to-use trademark can take place.

It is critical that intent-to-use trademark applications are identified early so that the parties may afford them the proper treatment under current U.S. trademark practice. As it turns out, very often these trademark applications cannot be assigned at a Closing or post-Closing ceremony. This circumstance illustrates the importance of having a further assurance clause such that when the ITU applications are ready to be assigned, the Seller must execute the necessary documentation. This often takes place well after the Closing date.

C. CONFIRMATORY ASSIGNMENT DOCUMENTS FOR RECORDAL IN THE RELEVANT JURISDICTIONS WHERE TRADEMARK RIGHTS EXIST

1. Worldwide Recordal of Intellectual Property Rights

With the exception of all-stock deals or relatively similar stock transactions, the assets, including the trademark rights of the acquired company, need to be transferred into the name of the new owner in each jurisdiction where such rights exist. Timely recordal of a change of ownership is critical to protect the ongoing validity and enforcement of intellectual property rights for several reasons, including:

(a) If a change of ownership is not promptly recorded, a misconception can arise in the marketplace as to the identity of the actual trademark owner, leading to a possible loss of rights where a trademark no longer functions as a true indication of origin. This is particularly true in the case of well-known trademarks, or in the case of other marks which are extensively used in their particular jurisdiction;

(b) The new owner may not be able to prosecute infringements, file oppositions or attend to renewals. For example, enforcement of a trademark can only be carried out under the authority of the owner of record or its exclusive licensee. If prompt injunctive relief is required, an undesired delay will result from a necessity to record the transfer of rights. Furthermore, the right of the trademark owner to obtain damages for acts of infringement which occurred before the transfer documents were recorded may be lost in certain jurisdictions.

(c) Fines and/or penalties may be assessed for late recordal of a transfer. In certain jurisdictions, there are time limits after which it may be too late to effect proper recordal of an assignment.

(d) The failure or delay in recording a transfer of ownership may result in a possible loss of royalties. For example, if a license is to be granted and recorded under a trademark, the licensor must be the owner of record. Therefore, a delay in recording the transfer can delay the date when the license agreement becomes effective; this, in turn, can delay manufacturing and/or sales. The resulting loss of royalties may not be recoverable. In a number of countries, a license agreement must be submitted to and approved by governmental authorities and the record owner should appear as the licensor. Delay in recording thus delays approval, with consequential loss of royalties.

(e) License recordals and registered user entries will no longer be current and may affect the validity of the use by a licensee and/or governmental approval for foreign exchange authorizations for remission of royalties.

(f) In the event an “equitable transfer” occurs without the requisite official change of “record ownership” at the relevant trademark offices throughout the world, the new owner will encounter enormous difficulties when confronted with the maintenance, sale, enforcement, hypothecation, licensing and/or use of the trademark rights. For example, proof of use (where required for maintenance of existing trademark registrations) may not be accepted when used by the current owner unless that party is now reflected as the “record owner”.

2. Separate Documents for Each Jurisdiction are Required.

In order to reflect the new owner of a trademark as the “owner of record”, it will be necessary in most jurisdictions for counsel to prepare separate assignment documents for each jurisdiction in which such right exists. In some jurisdictions, a certified copy of a “general” worldwide assignment may be acceptable. Trademark statutes exist in most countries of the world and provide a mechanism for the recordal of a change of ownership at a central registry. The form and substance of these documents vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, which underscores the advisability for the preparation of separate documents for each jurisdiction. Such documents must be filed and recorded at the respective local registry. Furthermore, several multi-country registration systems exist, such as International Registration under the Madrid Protocol which has special requirements in order to properly record a transfer of title. In this respect, it is recommended that the acquiring company engage counsel experienced in the worldwide transfer of intellectual property rights and who is familiar with the local requirements for the preparation and recordal of documents necessary for each jurisdiction.

Other issues arise with respect to the filing and recordal of the assignment documents at the respective local registry. In particular, stamp, value added or ad valorem taxes may be assessed on the transfer or official actions may issue encompassing a potentially broad range of issues (e.g., “associated” trademarks, advertising and publication requirements) as discussed more fully below. Local requirements underscore the need for separate transfer documents to be prepared, executed and recorded in each jurisdiction in their native language. Furthermore, confidential information which the Buyer does not wish to disclose can be omitted as each transfer document can be prepared simply to satisfy the local requirements for transfer of the national trademark rights exclusively.

3. Costs

Where a significant number of intellectual property rights exist in multiple jurisdictions that are the subject of a merger or acquisition, the costs of simply preparing and recording the necessary documents can be substantial. Official fees are often assessed by the number of trademarks or patents included in the transfer. The burden of absorbing the costs of effecting recordal of the assignment or merger frequently is borne by the acquirer. However, this is not always the case. In some cases, the costs are factored into the purchase price and in other cases these costs are shared by the parties. For instance, the parties can agree to have the Seller absorb the costs for preparation of the documents while the Buyer pays for the charges incurred in connection with recordal of the assignment at the local Trademark Offices. Accordingly, it is advisable that the issue of costs are discussed by the parties and treated in the Purchase or Acquisition Agreement entered into during the course of negotiations.

D. COMMERCIAL LOAN DOCUMENTS

Where elements of a transaction are being financed by a commercial lender, all commercial loan and security documents should be executed prior to or at the Closing ceremony. These documents can include:

(a) Credit Agreements;
(b) Loan and Guarantee Agreements;
(c) Promissory Notes;
(d) Escrow Agreements
(e) Security Agreements;
(f) Release Agreements pertaining to prior commercial security obligations among one or all of the parties;
(g) Consents, Waivers and Subordination agreements; and
(h) All other relevant Commercial Loan and Security Documents;

E. TRADEMARK SECURITY AGREEMENT

Like many commercial transactions, business transactions involving trademarks frequently require that the acquirer borrow funds to finance the transaction. In these instances, the lender providing the funds will seek collateral from the borrower to secure the loan as protection against the risk of default. When trademark rights are the subject of a security interest, the grant must take place in the form of a Trademark Security Agreement or similar document.

F. RELEASE AGREEMENTS

Prior to Closing, the presence of any liens, security interests or other encumbrances in trademarks will be revealed in one of two ways:

1. Representations and Warranties: Carefully negotiated representations and warranties in the Purchase Agreement and/or General Trademark Assignment Agreement will require the Seller to confirm whether prior encumbrances exist against the trademark rights. If such encumbrances against the trademarks exist and are still valid and subsisting, Buyer’s counsel must require the disclosure of these security interests and, wherever possible, require the release of these security interests prior to or at the Closing ceremony.

2. Due Diligence: Due diligence conducted on behalf of the Buyer, including searches of the relevant trademark registries, should reveal the existence of security interests which have been properly perfected against registered trademark rights. Where unregistered trademarks rights have been collateralized, however, a search of the Trademark Registry would not reveal such encumbrance.

For those trademark rights that have been made the subject of a security interest, it is critical to make certain that a Release of these rights is executed on behalf of the secured party in favor of the Grantor (i.e., the Seller). An obligation to obtain the release of these security interests should be made a condition precedent to the transfer. In most instances, the secured party will not be present at the Closing. If possible, the Release should be executed Nunc Pro Tunc to the date of the Closing. The rationale behind this is to make certain that when the Release is presented for recordal at the relevant Trademark Office, the assignment document does not bear an execution and/or effective date prior to the date of the Release. The Release should always be filed and recorded prior to the assignment document in order that the proper chronological chain of title is reflected on the Trademark Register.

Regardless of the manner in which prior security interests against registered or unregistered rights are discovered, arranging for execution of appropriate release documentation (either a Release Agreement or UCC-3) prior to or simultaneously at the Closing is critical. Furthermore, if the secured party is not the Seller, there is no guarantee that the secured party will necessarily release its security interest in the trademarks, depending upon the nature of its prior business with the Seller. In any event, execution of appropriate release documentation by the Seller should be made a condition precedent to performance on behalf of the Buyer.

G. OPINION LETTERS

Seller’s counsel is frequently required to deliver an opinion letter at Closing

concerning trademark issues in business transactions. For an acquiring or investing company, opinion letters are significant in that they are intended to bind the Seller to representations typically on the following:

(a) ownership;
(b) validity;
(c) enforceability;
(d) absence of encumbrances;
(e) non-infringement of third party rights;
(f) non-infringement by third party;
(g) effectiveness of proposed security documents for attachment, perfection and priority of a security interest; and,
(g) valuation of the trademark portfolio.

Whenever possible, opinion letters concerning trademark rights should be

rendered by the Seller’s trademark counsel, who, in all likelihood, is already quite familiar with the portfolio. If necessary, extensive due diligence may need to occur before the rendering of an opinion letter. Opinion letters are equally critical in financing or licensing transactions where the trademark is serving as the primary asset or collateral. Separate valuation opinions may also be required to be delivered at Closing. These opinions are concerned with assessing trademarks using different accounting methodologies to determine the actual or fair market value of the trademark asset.

H. LICENSE AGREEMENTS

Many business use intellectual property, including trademarks, that is licensedfrom third parties. The method upon which trademark licenses may be transferred to a Buyer depends upon whether the transaction is a share purchase or an asset purchase. In the case of a share purchase, the Buyer’s position is relatively straightforward, since by acquiring the shares in the company, the Buyer will automatically acquire all pre-existing commercial agreements, including all trademark license agreements. In the case of an asset purchase, any existing trademark licenses will not pass automatically and will need to be specifically transferred to the Buyer. The possible methods of transferring a trademark license include:

A Novation Agreement between the Seller, the Buyer and the licensor. The Buyer then becomes a party to the license in place of the Seller, and the Seller is released from its obligations under the license.

Assignment or sublicensing of the license . The prior license may contain an express prohibition on the assignment or sublicensing of the license without the consent of the licensor. Any and all consents should therefore be obtained prior to Closing. The Buyer and Seller will need to determine whether the obligation to negotiate and obtain such consents falls on the Buyer or the Seller. The acquisition agreement may even provide that the Buyer is not obligated to close the transaction if consents from key licensors cannot be obtained.

I. ANCILLARY AGREEMENTS AND OBLIGATIONS

The acquisition agreement often specifies other obligations of the parties related to the acquisition. With respect to trademarks, a license from the Seller to the Buyer or vice versa, is not uncommon. This typically occurs in situations where the Seller is parting with one of its businesses but has certain trademark rights that are used in that business and the business it is retaining. In such a situation, the Seller can either retain the shared trademark right and license it to the Buyer post-Closing or sell it to the Buyer and take a license back. Additionally, short-term licenses may be needed to allow the Seller to phase out its use of certain trademarks post-Closing.

IV. CLOSING DAY

A. EXECUTION PROCESS
B. PAYMENT
C. DELIVERY OF RELATED DOCUMENTS AND FILES: 

A. EXECUTION PROCESS

(1) Location – having a central location bringing together all therelevant parties for execution of the documents is helpful. There are distinct benefits in arranging for execution of all necessary documents, including confirmatory assignment documents, at Closing, including:

(a) by having a central location for execution of all the documentation, the presence of all necessary parties, including duly authorized officers of the Buyer and Seller, to complete execution of the documents results in greater efficiency in terms of time and reduced costs for the party bearing the expense, usually the Buyer.

(b) by not executing the documents piece-mail, counsel for the Buyer can immediately take possession of the confirmatory assignment documents and begin the process of dispatching the documents overseas for filing at the respective trademark offices. This is critical for two reasons:

(i) it eliminates the risk, which exists in many jurisdictions, that the Trademarks Office will impose fines or penalties for late submission of change of ownership documentation.

(ii) it eliminates the risk of rejection of the documents in their entirety for late submission or “staleness”. This is especially true if the documents are backdated or bear an effective date earlier than the date of actual execution and the jurisdiction has a particularly short filing deadline.

(2) Availability of notaries: by having all of the confirmatory assignment documents executed at the Closing or post-Closing ceremony, the parties will be able to take advantage of the presence of attesting notaries and witnesses as well as their designated signatories. When executing confirmatory assignment documents for purposes or recordal at national trademark offices, very often these documents require notarization and/or consular legalization or authentication by Apostille. For those countries that require consular legalization, especially in large transactions, by having both the Seller and Buyer execute all the confirmatory assignment documents in one location, the notarial acknowledgments will be uniform. This, in turn, will expedite the process of authentication, certification of the notarial acknowledgment and consular legalization at the Department of State or individual foreign consulates.

(3) Authorization of Officers to Execute Documents: The parties should require documentary evidence of the representations of both Buyer and Seller to legally execute the Closing documents and bind their companies. This evidence might include a Power of Attorney, a Board of Directors Resolution, Certificates of Incorporation or By-Laws. In terms of recording the assignment of rights abroad, several jurisdictions, especially in Latin America, require detailed notarized documents providing that the officer who executed the assignment documents on behalf of the company (whether Buyer or Seller), has been appointed as an agent of the company authorized to act on its behalf or appointed as an officer pursuant to a specific Resolution of the Board of Directors or other documents. In most instances, this will require the completion of detailed information such as the date of the resolution and/or the date that the company was incorporated.

(4) Country/Place of Execution:The place of execution will affect the manner in which the documents are notarized and/or legalized. In terms of a worldwide recordal program, having all the documents executed and subsequently notarized by notaries who are qualified in the same county or country will hasten the legalization process in that the notarials can be certified by at a single County Clerk’s office. By not doing so, having several documents sent to several different counties for certification can result in significant delay.

(5) Contingencies: Trademark counsel, whether representing the Buyer or Seller, should be prepared for all contingencies which may arise at a Closing with respect to execution of the documentation. Such contingencies can include:

(a) Errors in Preparation: Due to the jurisdictional nature in which trademark rights arise, the preparation of an extraordinary amount of documentation is required in terms of preparing for a worldwide assignment recordal. As such, if an error in preparation is discovered at the Closing, trademark counsel should be prepared to immediately correct such error(s) in order to promptly arrange for execution of the new, correct document. Towards that end, counsel should make certain in advance that:

(i) Adequate staff is available to implement such changes; Electronic versions of all documents are at counsel’s disposal in order to promptly implement such corrections.

(b) Errors in Execution: In terms of worldwide trademark assignment recordal programs requiring execution of what can be an extraordinary amount of documentation, it is inevitable that mistakes in execution will occur. This situation arises more frequently when several different parties are required to execute the same document, such as officers of each party, attesting witnesses and notaries. As discussed above, counsel should be in a position to have adequate staff and electronic versions available to promptly arrange for the preparation of new documentation.

(6) Corporate Seals: Corporate seals for each entity should be available at the Closing. Trademark counsel should make certain well in advance of the Closing date that either the officers of each company bring such seals to the Closing or that new seals are promptly ordered and available by the Closing date. Although affixing corporate seals can occur at any time subsequent to the Closing, this may delay the filing and ultimately the recordal of the assignment documents at the Trademark Registries. The failure to affix corporate seals can result in rejection of the assignment documents in several jurisdictions.

B. PAYMENT

The following concepts should be kept in mind in terms of transfer

of money:

1. Check/wire transfer: all pertinent banking particulars should be available to the parties, especially in the context of a wire transfer, so that the appropriate funds can be transferred to the Seller without undue complication;

2. Confirmation of receipt: confirmation of receipt of such funds should be available and delivered to the Seller upon request.

3. Escrow Accounts: established.

C. DELIVERY OF RELATED DOCUMENTS AND FILES:

1. Files From a trademark standpoint, relevant files pertaining to the

trademark rights should be delivered to the new owner, to the extent possible, at or post-Closing, which can include:

(a) pending application files: should be delivered to counsel for Buyer in order to make certain that all actions and/or deadlines are met.
(b) opposition/cancellation files; 
(c) litigation files; 
(d) prior chain of title files; 
(e) pending renewal files; 
(f). license files; and
(g) general trademark files. 

In arms length transactions, Buyer’s trademark counsel will often be different from that of the Seller. Therefore, Buyer’s counsel should prepare a simple, but formal letter to Seller’s counsel requesting the immediate transfer of all files subject to the transaction.

2. Certificates of Registration: To the extent possible, Certificates of Registration for each trademark registration should be delivered to the Buyer at Closing or shortly thereafter. Depending upon the specific portfolio, rights in the trademark may have been registered several years or decades ago, and therefore, it is not unusual for many of these certificates to have been lost or destroyed. In order to record the assignment in favor of the Buyer in those jurisdictions which require submission of the Certificate of Registration, it will be necessary to obtain certified copies of the Certificate of Registration from the Trademarks Office. In large transactions, this could result in significant additional expenses, especially in less sophisticated jurisdictions, which the parties should anticipate. If not negotiated in the Purchase Agreement or General Trademark Assignment Agreement, this additional expense will usually be borne by the Buyer.

3. Letters to local trademark counsel re: file transfer: Where several trademark applications, renewal filings or conflicts are pending worldwide and if the Buyer prefers to use local counsel differing from that of the Seller, Buyer should notify its preferred counsel to instruct Seller’s counsel to immediately transfer such files. Buyer’s preferred counsel should then file the appropriate substitution of counsel documentation with the Trademarks Office where necessary so as not to interfere with the prosecution of the applications when the assignment documents are filed. At the very least, notice to all counsel by Seller’s counsel should be sent out advising of the change in ownership and responsibility.

V. POST-CLOSING ISSUES:

A. IMMEDIATE DOCKETING OF TRADEMARKS/ACTION DATES:
B. HANDLING ACTIONS (OFFICIAL ACTIONS/RENEWALS/PAYMENTS)
C. REVIEW OF FILES TO RE-ASSESS VALUE OF TRADEMARKS/MAJOR MARKETS:
D. FILING AND RECORDAL OF CONFIRMATORY ASSIGNMENT DOCUMENTS IN EACH JURISDICTION WHERE TRADEMARK RIGHTS EXIST
E. FILING AND RECORDAL OF CONFIRMATORY DOCUMENTS TO RECORD A MERGER AND/OR CHANGE OF NAME
F. SECURITY INTERESTS

 

A. IMMEDIATE DOCKETING OF TRADEMARKS/ACTION DATES:

It is critical that upon possession of the transferred files, an immediate review to determine when renewal dates, terms, responses to official actions and other “action” dates are due. In addition to the particulars of the trademark (mark, registration number, registration date, etc.), these “action” dates should be immediately uploaded into a computer database in order to alert counsel to any impending actions.

B. HANDLING ACTIONS (OFFICIAL ACTIONS/RENEWALS/PAYMENTS)

Any and all trademark applications and registrations requiring immediate action should be brought to the new owner’s attention in order to prevent the loss of such rights. Very often, the new owner will conduct a complete review of which trademarks it is interested in maintaining, however, this process can very often be quite lengthy. Therefore, it is critical that the new owner be advised of immediate action dates in order that their instructions may be timely received. This obligation on the Seller should be a condition of the sale and include a post-Closing undertaking by Seller to assist Buyer in taking any and all steps necessary to preserve and protect the trademark rights.

C. REVIEW OF FILES TO RE-ASSESS VALUE OF TRADEMARKS/MAJOR MARKETS:

Buyer may wish to eliminate any unwanted registrations or applications subsequent to the acquisition. They can abandon them at the time of renewal and just not record assignments against them.

D. FILING AND RECORDAL OF CONFIRMATORY ASSIGNMENT DOCUMENTS IN EACH JURISDICTION WHERE TRADEMARK RIGHTS EXIST

(1) Filing expenses: Expenses associated with the filing and recordal

of confirmatory assignment documents to record the Buyer as the official “owner of record” can, especially in transactions where worldwide trademark portfolios are being assigned, be quite expensive. There are several costs associated with the filing and recordal of the documentation, including:

i. government fees: often assessed on a per trademark basis;
ii. local counsel fees: in connection with filing the assignment recordal application
iii. taxes; depending upon the jurisdiction in the form of ad valorem, value added or stamp duties;
iv. translation fees: upon filing or in connection with the official publication of the assignment (if required);
v. publication fees:in connection with local advertising or publication of the transfer in a local newspaper or periodical (if required);
vi. foreign consular legalization or authentication charges; 
vii. charges for obtaining duplicate or replacement Certificates of Registration: if required; and
viii. recordation of any change of address: if required.

(2) Consideration: Several jurisdictions require that a specific monetary consideration be recited in the Deed of Assignment for recordal purposes. If the trademarks are assigned as part of a transaction involving the transfer of other assets, the consideration for the transfer is some portion of the consideration for the entire transaction. Prior to filing, trademark counsel should consult with the new owner of the trademarks to determine an appropriate consideration to be recited in each Deed of Assignment for those jurisdictions where it is mandatory to recite same. Trademark counsel should be familiar with the possible local tax requirements when advising the new owner so as not to trigger any unanticipated local tax assessments upon the transfer. Additionally, where tax assessments cannot be avoided upon the transfer, trademark counsel and Buyer should evaluate and determine the specific amount to be paid to the local tax authorities well in advance of filing so that the Buyer can factor this amount into its budget.

(3 Legalization/Authentications: In several jurisdictions, prior to filing the confirmatory assignment documentation, it will be necessary to arrange for the consular legalization and/or authentication of the confirmatory assignment documentation. While some embassies undertake the process of legalization in an expedient fashion, many embassies, especially from less sophisticated jurisdictions, have a slow turnaround time. Additionally, it is often necessary to have documents which require legalization to be sent to a County Clerks’ office to certify that the notary is, in fact, a notary public in good standing in that country and/or to have the documents sent to the Department of State as well.

(4) Filing Process: When the confirmatory assignment documents have been executed, notarized and legalized (where necessary) and after a careful review to determine that no information or signatures are missing, the documents are ready to be filed at the respective trademark offices. Trademark counsel should consider the following issues when forwarding the assignment documentation to local counsel for filing:

(a) pending trademark applications: in order to not interfere with the prosecution of the application, trademark counsel should consider using the same agent for purposes of recording the assignment. If trademark counsel would prefer to use a different agent than the one prosecuting the application, counsel should coordinate its effort with the agent of record and its preferred agent so as not to interfere with the prosecution.

(b) pending renewal applications: where a renewal application is pending in the name of the new owner, the assignment documentation must be filed with the same agent in order that the agent can prove that the entity renewing the registration is, in fact, the new owner.

(c) deadlines: certain jurisdictions require the filing of the assignment documentation within a certain period of time from the date of execution. For example, some British law countries still operating under the 1938 Trade Marks Act require assignments made without goodwill to be filed within six months of the date of execution for advertising purposes. Other countries which impose a deadline upon filing of assignment documents include:

(d) official actions: It is practically inevitable that when arranging for the
recordal of an assignment against hundreds or even thousands of trademarks on a worldwide basis, objections and official actions will issue by the Trademarks Office. Among the types of official actions to be anticipated are:

(i) owner of record: the Trademark Registry does not reflect the Seller (assignor) as the official “owner of record”. For whatever reason, the Seller never undertook to record itself as the new owner against the trademark rights in a particular jurisdiction. Accordingly, the Registrar will require that documentation evidencing the assignment from the previous owner to the Seller be submitted together with the new assignment documentation.

(ii) “association” requirements: the trademark laws of several jurisdictions have a requirement in place known as the “association” requirement. Under the association requirement, if an application for assignment is filed only against some, but not all, trademarks owned by an assignor which it has registered at a particular trademark office, the Examiner may issue an official action claiming that the assignment cannot proceed due to the existence of “associated” trademarks. In most instances, the Examiner determines that a mark is associated when there is a common element or word contained in the marks. In order to overcome this objection, there are normally three options available:

  • Prepare new assignment documentation for execution by the parties against the associated trademarks which were not subject to the assignment.
  • File a petition with the trademark office in an effort to “break the association” between the trademarks, arguing that the trademarks should not be “associated” and recordal should proceed uninhibited.
  • Commence cancellation proceedings against the associated trademarks.

(iii) change in local practice: the requirements of local trademark practice shift on a fairly regular basis which may result in requests for additional forms, Powers of Attorney, Affidavits or other documents to be submitted with the assignment documents. In some instances, new assignment documents are required altogether.

(iv) missing/lost documents: It is not uncommon for Trademark Offices to temporarily misplace or lose entirely a complete set of assignment documents, especially in less sophisticated jurisdictions. Regardless of fault, a new set of assignment documents can be executed by the parties and submitted to the Trademark Office or in certain cases, certified copies will be accepted.

(v)change of address: the address of the Seller as reflected on the official registry differs from that contained in the assignment document. Accordingly, a Declaration of Change of Address must be filed in order to overcome this objection and allow the recordal of the assignment to proceed.

(vi) license recordal or registered user entry in name of Seller: when the Seller is recorded as a licensor/licensee or registered user, the Examiner may require evidence of the novation of the license or registered user agreement to reflect that the Seller is no longer the licensor or licensee of the mark.

Regardless of the type of official action which may issue, one dominant theme is clear. Officers (or former officers) of both the Buyer and the Seller should be available to execute whatever additional documentation is requested by the local Trademark Office to complete the transfer of “record title” to the Buyer.

(e) Proof of recordal: In most jurisdictions, proof of recordal of an assignment, merger or change of name is issued within six months to one year. In other jurisdictions such as India or Italy, proof of recordal may not be issued for approximately 4-5 years. In any event, when the proof of recordal is received, this document should be carefully reviewed to determine the following:

the name and address of the new owner is correctly reflected on the certificate;

the date of the recordal is stated;

the correct application and/or registration numbers are recited on the certificate.

 

E. FILING AND RECORDAL OF CONFIRMATORY DOCUMENTS TO RECORD A MERGER AND/OR CHANGE OF NAME

Although many of the issues discussed above pertaining to recordal of

confirmatory assignment documents remain true for the recordal of a merger and/or change of name, such as the assessment of government fees on a per trademark basis, as a general rule, fewer documents need to be prepared and executed by the parties for recordal purposes. In many jurisdictions, recordal of a change of name and/or merger can be accomplished with the following documents:

(a) Power of Attorney: usually executed by the Buyer only;

(b) Certificate of Merger/Change of Name: issued by the appropriate Secretary of State’s office (if a U.S. corporation) or similar governmental authority outside the U.S.

Unlike an assignment, however, all assets of the combined companies pass to the new entity by operation of law and therefore, recordal of a merger/change of name must be recorded against all active trademark applications and registrations which stand in the name of the Seller at a particular Trademark Registry.

F. SECURITY INTERESTS

Increasingly, security interests in intellectual property and, in particular, trademarks, are becoming more and more common. Towards that end, perfection of security interests in trademarks worldwide is becoming more common. Recordal of security interests in trademarks is a well-established practice in only the most sophisticated jurisdictions and even there, similar to the United States, the law in this area is not well settled. However, for those jurisdictions outside the United States where security interests have been recorded at the Trademarks Registry, it may be necessary to seek the opinion of local counsel in order to determine whether release documentation prepared for recordal at, for instance, the USPTO, will be sufficient to release the security interest under local law.

(i)Perfection of security interests in trademarks in the United States: With respect to U.S. common law and U.S. State trademark registrations, Article 9 of the UCC would apply and the appropriate UCC-1 forms should be filed and perfected at the relevant County Clerk’s Office and/or Secretary of States office. With respect to federally registered rights, the landscape concerning perfection of security interests still remains unclear. While the Lanham Act makes no direct reference to recordation of security interests, the USPTO will accept and it is now common practice to record security interests in trademarks at the assignment division. At the very least, recordation at the USPTO provides constructive notice to subsequent purchasers for value.

(ii) What countries recognize perfection of security interests: As the value

of intellectual property rights are more widely recognized now than ever before, more and more companies are placing a premium on the protection of these rights, including trademarks. Companies with substantial worldwide portfolios are increasingly offering not only their domestic trademark rights as security to finance a transaction, but increasingly, their international rights as well. Towards that end, secured parties would be well advised to seek perfection of these security interests at the trademark offices in several, if not all, of the jurisdictions in which the trademark security interest has been granted. However, at this time, only the most sophisticated jurisdictions recognize the creation of security interests in trademarks and offer a mechanism for perfection of same at the Trademark Office.

(iii) Will the security documents suffice to create and perfect the security interest in the relevant jurisdictions? – Subsequent to identifying those jurisdictions which offer a mechanism for perfecting a security interest in trademarks, it is critical to determine whether the General Trademark Security Agreement or other trademark security documents will be accepted for recordal. While some jurisdictions will accept a standard security agreement, it may be necessary to effect certain amendments to the Agreement in order to create a valid security interest under local law. A common example of this would be changing the “governing law” provisions to that of the jurisdiction under which perfection is sought. In many instances, it may be necessary for the parties to execute several new trademark security agreements tailored specifically for creating and perfecting trademark rights in certain jurisdictions. Towards that end, it may be necessary to engage local counsel early to determine whether the Trademark Security Agreement will suffice for purposes of creating and perfecting a valid security interest in trademarks under local law.

(iv) Supplemental documentation to the Trademark Security Agreement : In addition to amendment or possibly creating a new Trademark Security Agreement in compliance with local law, it is often the case that additional documents will need to be executed by the parties and submitted together with the Trademark Security Agreement. Such documents can include:

(1) Application forms;
(2) Powers of Attorney;
(3) Short-Form Security Agreements;
(4) Commercial Security Agreements for filing at the municipal level (if necessary); and
(5) Various other forms required under local trademark and/or commercial practice.

(v) Obtaining opinion letters from local counsel : In order to make certain

that the secured party is not blindly undertaking the ministerial act of perfecting the security interest, it may be worthwhile to obtain a formal opinion letter of local counsel discussing some or all of the following points:

(1) whether any prior liens or encumbrances have been recorded against the trademark;
(2) whether a valid security interest is created by the Trademark Security Agreement under local law;
(3) whether the security interest is capable of being perfected at the local Trademark Office; and
(3) subsequent to perfection at the Trademark Office, whether the security interest is capable of being enforced against third parties;

In what countries should perfection take place/cost assessment: Simply

determining which jurisdictions recognize perfection of security interests in trademarks and identifying what supplemental documentation would be needed is not enough. A thorough cost-assessment of the value of the trademarks subject to the security interest may be worthwhile. In the end, it may not be worthwhile to proceed in a jurisdiction where notoriety or sales in the trademarks do not exist. Factors to consider in this determination are:

(1) The number of trademarks subject to the security interest;
(2) The government fees in perfecting the security interest;
(3) Local counsel fees in preparing an amended or new Trademark Security Agreement, supplemental documentation, opinion letters and handling the perfection of the security interests;
(4) The value of the trademarks as determined by notoriety and/or sales in the products bearing the trademarks;
(5) The sophistication of the jurisprudence in a particular jurisdiction; and
(6) Other standard valuation benchmarks in determining the value of trademark rights.

(vii) time considerations: In addition to cost considerations, time is also a factor when considering perfection of security interests abroad. While certain jurisdictions can typically record the security interest at the Trademark Office within 3-6 months, there are still many jurisdictions which typically require several years before recordal is officially reflected on the register. Furthermore, expedited recordal procedures are generally not in place. Therefore, in terms of obtaining the benefits of perfection by providing notice to third parties, proceeding in some of these jurisdictions may not be worthwhile.

(viii) events of default/enforcement procedures: In the event of a default, trademark counsel should be aware of what steps must be taken in order to enforce the security interest and foreclose on the trademark assets. If the defaulting party is unwilling to assign rights in the trademark back to the secured party, the secured party may need to bring a court action under local commercial or trademark law.

CONCLUSION

The key to a successful Closing is, preparation, organization and anticipation. Anticipation results in no or few surprises at the Closing ceremony. Preparation leads to a more mechanical and faster process. Good organization ensures that every issue and step in the process is dealt with so that no open issues remain and all required documents are executed and delivered. Clients will generally be impressed by and grateful for a smooth and uneventful Closing process.

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