From the Bench: The Honorable Linda Kuczma

Q: What is your full title?

A: Administrative Trademark Judge

Q: Which administrative board do you serve?

A: The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Q: What is a typical day for you?

A: Most days involve “deciding cases” which includes: discussing the cases with the panel of judges and interlocutory attorneys assigned to each case, conducting legal research on a wide range of topics, reviewing testimony and evidence, analyzing evidentiary issues and objections, drafting decisions, and reviewing decisions drafted by other judges and interlocutory attorneys.

Q: What made you want to serve as a member of the judiciary?

A: After working on the “litigator side” of litigated matters so many years, I was curious about the “judicial side” of litigation.

Q: Prior to your appointment, what area of law did you primarily practice in?

A: For thirty years I practiced as an Intellectual Property attorney handling prosecution, counseling and litigation of primarily trademark and patent matters. While I was a licensed patent attorney, I found trademark matters to be very interesting and engaging.

Q: What advice do you have for YLS members appearing in court?

A: Be prepared to succinctly address the issues in your case that are not the strongest but tailor your argument to address the strong points supporting your position. It is critical to recognize the strength of the various aspects of your case so that you do not spend too much time in an area where there is little to be gained. Also, if your case involves subject matter, i.e., goods and/or services, that may not be well known by the general public, such as technical goods or complex services, it is important that you be able to provide the TTAB panel with a thorough understanding of the subject matter so that it becomes more familiar to them.

Q: For YLS members who may be interested in serving as administrative judges, do you have any advice for them?

A: Because the job of a TTAB judge involves a lot of writing (without the assistance of law clerks), get as much experience as possible doing legal research and drafting briefs on a wide variety of procedural and substantive issues. Additionally, while we do not have the pleasure of hearing oral arguments frequently, it is good to get experience in doing oral presentations, whether in court, at legal conferences or client presentations, since TTAB judges actively participate in the oral arguments at which they preside and also receive invitations for public speaking engagements.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would have given yourself when you were just getting started in practice?

A: Try to learn something from every project or litigation task you do, whether it be drafting a memo of law, drafting or presenting a legal argument, talking to clients or partners, or appearing in court. Also, observe how others take on such tasks and produce the end product. You are sure to learn skills and approaches to handling matters that you will want to adopt, as well as note approaches you will want to avoid.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: I work for the TTAB primarily from a home office in the Chicago area, and I appear at most hearings for which I serve as a panel member via a video conference connection to the TTAB hearing room in Alexandria, Virginia. This option can also be utilized on behalf of the parties to TTAB cases and USPTO Examining Attorneys. I am curious to see what impact there may be from more frequent and expanded use of this option, whether on the actual conduct of the proceeding, or the ability of those involved, both the advocates and the judges, to fully engage each other in consideration of the issues. While video participation in arguments is an option that can save parties time and the cost of travel for oral argument, there may be some cases where in-person engagement will be valuable.

About the Judge:

Linda Kuczma is an Administrative Trademark Judge at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board after being in private practiced for 30 years. She joined the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in October 2011.

Linda has extensive experience in the worldwide protection of intellectual property rights including trademarks and trade dress, patents, advertising and unfair competition through litigation, registration, licensing, and alternate dispute resolution. She has been admitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal, D.C., Seventh and Ninth Circuits, the Northern District of Illinois, and was registered as a patent attorney before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  

She has spoken on trademark, patent and licensing topics for the Practicing Law Institute, International Trademark Association (INTA), the John Marshall Annual Intellectual Property Conference, American Bar Association, American Intellectual Property Law Association, Minority Corporate Counsel Association, the Chicago Bar Association, the Intellectual Property Law Association of Chicago and the American University, DePaul University and IIT/Kent Schools of Law, frequently spoken on Office practice at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, and authored articles on a variety of IP issues including international trademark protection and related ethical issues, trademark dilution, harmonization and grey marketing.

Linda received her B.A. degree in Biology from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and her J.D. from Loyola University of Chicago. She has served as President of the Intellectual Property Law Association of Chicago and the Advocates Society, as National Chair of INTA’s Saul Lefkowitz Trademark Moot Court Competition, and has chaired several bar association committees. Linda has been recognized as a “Super Lawyer,” “Leading Illinois Lawyers” and as one of the “Top 50 Women Lawyers in Illinois.”

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