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Your source for news, updates and guidance on all things trademarks and intellectual property.

What is a Trademark Docket Number and Trademark Reference Number?

Alt Legal Team | April 08, 2024
4 min read

This article was originally published on August 19, 2022. It was republished with updates on April 8, 2024.

Attorneys employ many different methods to organize their files, clients, and matters. Typically, lawyers and firms utilize an alphanumeric combination of characters to assign client numbers and related matter numbers. Client numbers and matter numbers are particularly important when it comes to organizing trademark files. Many clients file multiple trademark applications for a single mark – they will file a word mark, a design or stylized mark, and possibly multiple applications for their word and design marks in different classes of goods and services. They may also have secondary marks, slogans, colorized versions of their marks, trade dress, or even non-traditional trademarks that they are also seeking to protect. Each of these different filings will need a unique matter number so that when you are working on a particular task, you can readily identify it by your trademark docket number and avoid any confusion or mistakes.

Most trademark docketing software allows you to assign client and matter numbers to your trademark files. This makes it easy for you to search or identify your trademark matters and run reports on particular clients and/or intellectual property filings. Also, the USPTO allows you to enter an “Attorney Docket Number” on your trademark applications. This is helpful so that you can cross-check your files when you are reading USPTO documents and correspondence, as they will always contain your Attorney Docket Number. According to the USPTO:

An Attorney Docket Number is a Reference text of up to 25 alphanumeric characters that is used to identify a patent application. This number is not assigned by the USPTO and can be any combination of numbers and letters. Customers can enter complete or partial Attorney Docket Numbers to retrieve a list of applications.

Additionally, advanced docketing systems like Alt Legal can automatically add attorney-created trademark docket numbers and trademark reference numbers. If you’ve included these reference numbers in the Attorney Docket Number field with the USPTO, Alt Legal will automatically capture all TSDR data, including the Attorney Docket Number, and transfer this information directly to your Alt Legal docket. Alternatively, if you haven’t included trademark docket numbers and trademark reference numbers of your USPTO or international filings, if you supply these numbers to Alt Legal, we can transfer this data into your docket anytime at no charge.

Trademark Docket Numbers for Internal Organization

Assigning docket numbers, client numbers, and matter numbers to your trademark files is necessary to properly organize and functionally search your files. Often, trademark professionals will employ a naming convention where they assign a combined client and matter number. For example, a file may be labeled ABC2012-001, where ABC represents the first three letters of the client ABC Industries, 2012 represents the year when the client was retained, and 001 represents the particular matter associated with a client. Where a client has multiple trademark filings, attorneys should assign a new matter number to each new filing. Matter numbers can be used for any type of matter associated with the client whether it is a new trademark application, a corporate filing, a dispute, a license agreement, an employment agreement, a domain registration, a copyright registration, and so forth.

It’s helpful to list the docket numbers, client numbers, and matter numbers that you’ve assigned to a particular trademark matter on your USPTO trademark filings in the field labeled “Attorney Docket Number.” Anytime you are reviewing your official USPTO trademark filings, you’ll be able to find your internal docket number, client number, or matter number for easy reference. You can also enter your docket numbers, client numbers, and matter numbers into your trademark docketing system and search for specific numbers. This enables you to easily run reports on all marks related to particular clients, or specific matters. Additionally, attorneys can use client and matter numbers when time keeping to organize how they are spending their time.

Reference Numbers for Foreign Agents

Typically, when you retain a foreign agent to register a client’s trademark in a foreign jurisdiction, the agent will assign their own internal docket number to the matter. This internal docket number is often referred to as a “Reference Number” and is used in addition to the application number assigned by the foreign jurisdiction’s IP office. When you are handling a foreign trademark matter, you will need to assign your own internal docket number/matter number as described in the prior section, and you’ll also need to include the foreign agent’s reference number on every working document in your file. Foreign agents will often require that all correspondence include their reference number so that they are able to track and organize correspondence and your instructions for proceeding.

As with internal docket numbers/matter numbers referenced in the prior section, you can enter foreign agents’ reference numbers in your docketing system so that you can search by the foreign reference number if you happen to not have your internal docket number handy.

Reference Numbers for Outside Counsel

Often when in-house counsel retains outside counsel to handle their trademark matters, the outside counsel will assign their own reference number to the matter. As with foreign agents, in-house counsel will need to include their own internal docket numbers/matter numbers and the outside counsel’s reference numbers on all communications between parties. This helps ensure that all communications are highly organized and attributed to the correct matter so that when outside counsel is filing documents with the USPTO or taking any other sort of action, they are doing so with reference to the correct matter.

Alt Legal’s Internal Docket Number Generator

At Alt Legal, we understand the importance of organizing your matters using docket numbers. To that end, we’ve implemented a rudimentary docket number generator where based on pre-defined prefixes, we can generate the next number in your preferred sequence. This is in anticipation of a much more robust docket number generator that allows for any style of docket number to support the myriad ways users wish to craft them. The internal docket number generator is available as an opt-in feature. If you’d like to opt-in, please contact our support team.

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