What is IP Docketing?
Alt Legal Team | September 04, 2023
At its most basic level, IP docketing is keeping track of statuses and the numerous deadlines associated with various types of IP matters including trademarks, patents, copyright, domains, licenses, and disputes, including TTAB disputes and litigation proceedings. Before the advent of software and databases, IP docketing would have been done manually with a journal or calendar. Some attorneys still use manual processes like these although most are discouraged for malpractice reasons (more on that here). Today, most calendaring and journaling is done electronically as IP practitioners find that IP docketing software is more efficient, reliable, and accurate than a paper calendaring system.
How is IP docketing different from data entry?
IP docketing is more than just data entry, as IP docketing involves careful thought, decision-making, and analysis. Individuals who manage IP dockets are skilled practitioners, either attorneys or IP paralegals or administrators, who understand the nuances and intricacies involved in IP practice and prosecution. They are tasked with knowing and understanding IP-related deadlines and being able to calculate and calendar deadlines.
Manual IP docketing can be quite tedious, time consuming, and error-prone. Manual docketing can lead to errors which can result in sanctioning by the USPTO. However, with Alt Legal, manual IP docketing is eliminated for USPTO trademarks, including almost all deadline calculation and all calendaring. Thus, with Alt Legal, the IP docketer’s role changes substantially. Instead of spending time typing in information about filings and calculating deadlines (including adjusting for holidays and weekends), the IP docketer can instead do more substantial tasks, like communicating with clients and assisting with filings.
Why do I need IP docketing software?
IP rights rely heavily on dates as most rights expire after a period of time and some can be renewed. Therefore, attorneys who represent clients who own various types of IP need efficient and reliable systems to keep track of these deadlines. IP docketing software can be used to track registration periods and renewal dates. It can also be used to track the length and expiration of dates involved in various types of agreements involving IP.
Additionally, the application process for IP matters like trademarks and patents involve many deadlines which must be carefully tracked. A single trademark application may have upwards of a dozen or more deadlines (including use filings, office action responses, final refusals, and others) before the trademark is registered. After registration, there are regular renewal and use filings such as the USPTO section 8 and section 9 declarations that are necessary to maintain your trademark registration. For example, with USPTO trademark registrations, these deadlines can occur at 6- and 10-year marks, making them particularly difficult to track over time.
If a mark is ever opposed before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in the United States, the TTAB process will require you to docket TTAB deadlines that could extend multiple years. This task is compounded with complexity as likely extensions will cause deadline changes.
While keeping track of these deadlines may seem simple or straightforward for one or two filings, the deadlines add up quickly, and keeping track of deadlines years or even more than a decade away can be intimidating. And the consequences for missing a deadline can be severe: missed deadlines can lead to the loss of a trademark, additional fees, and (understandably) upset clients. This is where IP docketing software comes in.
What should I look for in IP docketing software?
The simplest IP docketing systems will allow you to enter deadlines received from IP offices and alert you when the deadlines are approaching. Beyond these features, the most important features to watch for in your IP docketing software are: automation, deadline calculation, document storage, reminders about deadlines, reporting tools, and tools for communicating with clients and/or colleagues.
Automation not only saves the IP docketer time, but it also significantly reduces the chances of human error. Different docketing systems define automation differently. Some systems just calculate deadlines, while others retrieve basic mark information from some IP offices. Alt Legal’s automated docketing detects new trademark filings and adds them to the docket. It also updates trademark statuses and calculates deadlines without manual data entry.
More sophisticated IP docketing software, like Alt Legal, will automatically calculate trademark deadlines based on statuses and status dates and for some jurisdictions even automatically detect filings and update statuses and deadlines for you.
Reminders about deadlines
Alt Legal sends daily email notifications to remind filers of deadlines and keep them apprised of changes to filing statuses.
For some jurisdictions, Alt Legal automatically collects documents like applications, registration certificates, office actions, and drawings. It also allows users to upload their own documents and provides a platform for keeping detailed notes about conversations with clients, colleagues, and co-counsel.
Most IP docketing systems have built-in tools for creating reports to distribute work or keep clients and colleagues informed. Alt Legal’s powerful reporting lets you create custom reports with just a few clicks.
With Alt Legal, you can send pre-populated emails or letters to inform clients and colleagues about the statuses of their filings. If you’d like, you can even provide clients and colleagues with read-only access to see their trademark filings. No matter how you manage your docket, it’s important that you keep track of your deadlines and give yourself plenty of time to communicate with clients and colleagues to ensure responses are timely.
What do the terms Data Migration and Exportability mean, and why do they matter?
Data migration is a critical aspect of getting IP docketing software up and running. Only some vendors, like Alt Legal, will provide free data migration, while others will charge you to become their customer. You’ll want to carefully check the terms of the contract.
Data exportability is also a critical factor. What happens to your data if you leave the service? Some vendors will charge hundreds or even thousands of dollars to export your data for you and will not allow you to export the data directly to give to another vendor for data migration. Check the terms of service for what they allow and disallow (e.g., see section 6 of our terms of service indicating that you have the right to export your data out of Alt Legal without charge).
What else can IP docketing software do?
Alt Legal’s IP docketing software helps you keep track of important deadlines, but also has tools to help file trademarks. Use Alt Legal’s forms streamline the process of collecting information needed to submit a trademark application. You can send the forms to clients or colleagues and then directly transfer the relevant information to USPTO TEAS filing system. With just a few clicks, applications are filled in and ready to be submitted.
Additionally, you should consider looking for IP docketing software that integrates with trademark monitoring and watch tools to help you protect your trademarks. Alt Legal offers Alt Legal Trademark Protection, a cost-effective monitoring and watch solution, that is available as an optional add-on service to Alt Legal IP Docketing Software. Alt Legal Trademark Protection includes Trademark Application Match and §2(d) Trademark Watch, a set of fully-automated monitoring and watch tools that you can use seamlessly with your Alt Legal IP Docketing software to provide you with an integrated docketing and full US-docket monitoring experience.
What else should I check for when pricing IP docketing software?
Some IP docketing systems may seem inexpensive until you realize how little is included. Some systems charge for additional users, client access, migrations, and even support. Alt Legal’s automated docketing software includes unlimited users, unlimited clients, free and easy migrations, and free and unlimited support. We’re here to help you succeed!