NJ Transit struggling to register its logos after erroneous lapse

Failing to renew its trademarks before a 2012 deadline including a 6-month grace period, NJ Transit is hurrying to register its seven trademarks  — including its well-known orange, magenta and blue bands — with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

An official at the trademark office also confirmed that the lapsed mark also include, “NJ TRANSIT The Way To Go,” accompanied by black and white bars, bands and lines, which is one of the most recognizable trademark slogans of NJ Transit.

This failure to renew its trademark is not the first paperwork error that happened at NJ Transit: Three years back, the web hosting company of the agency had terminated its domain name, NJTransit.com, for failure on the part of the agency to pay the domain name fee.  John R. Kettle III, an expert in trademark law and director of the Intellectual Property Law Clinic at Rutgers University-Newark observed that a service mark or trademark can be a company’s most important asset.  He said that the agency should have had better management for their trademark and service mark portfolios.  “NJ Transit has well-known marketplace distinction, and the registration of that is important to its business,” he said. Among other things, “it’s a defensive action to keep people from trying to trade on it.”

The officials at NJ Transit blamed a former attorney for lapse that had occurred.  “A previous, outside counsel for the agency had incorrectly assured the agency that the marks’ continued-use protection would continue into the year 2018,” NJ Transit spokesman John Durso Jr. said in an email. “This was clearly incorrect information and was discovered during a routine legal inspection by the agency’s new, outside intellectual-properties attorney in December.  As a result, actions were immediately taken by the new attorney to restore registration and full rights — which are continuing at this time.”  Durso said that the cost to re-register the trademarks could be a few thousand dollars.

When David Himelman, the agency’s attorney was consulted, he said: “A former associate in my office miscalculated the time. He calculated 10 years from 2008. … It was a mistake.”  He refused any further comments regarding the matter.

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