Practice Run

I have been putting off a task for several weeks. Okay, for several months. Truth said, almost a year. I own two trademarks, and I needed to file a “declaration of use” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. When I first read the materials online, I got discouraged. I thought insurance contracts were difficult to read, but this was at another level of obfuscation.

Throughout the duration of this lingering task, I got several solicitations from firms who could file the forms for me. Their fee (in the neighborhood of $600 apiece) not only went against my frugal nature but also my “I should be able to do this myself” attitude. Initially, I had nearly a year in which to comply, but time was running short — I had to complete the reporting in January 2017.

The instructions and forms on the government website were confusing to me. So I did what I often do when confounded with something — I ordered a book on the topic. Normally, that would allow me a few weeks’ respite, but modern book ordering meant I got it within a few days. No loitering for me; now I had a book to read.

The warning “Failure to file this document will result in cancellation/expiration of the registration” fueled my panic.


The book didn’t help much — I was still confused, but now I was discouraged and $44.99 poorer. So I tried another tried-and-true tactic: I asked my wife to read the instructions and let me know whether we should try to fill in the forms together. She read them, didn’t think they were too bad and recommended I go ahead and give it a shot. I was hoping for her to say, “It’s too complicated; hire an attorney.” No such luck.

Now the gauntlet was thrown down. Never mind that she used to be a claims adjuster in New York City and reads insurance contracts for entertainment, I was challenged.

A few weeks passed and I started to panic. For whatever reason, I was still frightened about filling in the forms and doing it wrong. But now I was panicked about getting it done in time. The multiple admonitions on the website didn’t help: “If you don’t do it right, there is no refund. You’ll have to re-file and pay the fee again.” “You only have 60 minutes in which to fill in the form. If you go over 60 minutes, your session will time out and you will have to begin the entire process again.” In particular, the warning “Failure to file this document will result in cancellation/expiration of the registration” fueled my panic.

This was certainly daunting. I was intimidated.

Finally, I decided to just “do a practice run”: Fill in the website form as best as I could, with no intention of finalizing it and paying the fee.

This seemed safe — at least I would be doing something towards getting it done.

It worked better than I thought. I filled in the form and felt good enough about it to submit it and pay the $100 fee. Considering the estimates that I received from various firms offering their services, I figured that I could goof it up five times before submitting a correct form and break even with the cost.

I felt so good that I did it for the second trademark as well.

So, in my opinion, things that seem insurmountable sometimes just need a “practice run.”