TMEP 803.03(i): Common Terms Designating Entity of Foreign Applicants

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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803.03(i)    Common Terms Designating Entity of Foreign Applicants

In designating the legal entity of foreign applicants, acceptable terminology is not always the same as for United States applicants.  The word "corporation" as used in the United States is not necessarily equivalent to juristic entities of foreign countries; the word "company" is sometimes more accurate.  If the applicant is from the United Kingdom or another commonwealth country (e.g., Canada or Australia) and the term "company" (or the abbreviation "co.") is used, no inquiry is needed. "Limited company" is also acceptable, for example, in China, the Republic of Korea, and commonwealth countries.  There is a list of commonwealth countries on the commonwealth website at

"Limited corporation" is also an acceptable entity designation for a foreign applicant.

The designation Foreign Maritime Entity (FME) is not an acceptable business entity type. A "legal entity" is "[a] body, other than a natural person, that can function legally, sue or be sued, and make decisions through agents." Black’s Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014). Here, the capacity to sue or be sued rests with the foreign entity that registers as a FME, as opposed to the FME itself. Therefore, the term FME does not identify a legal entity.

Appendix D of this manual lists common foreign designations, and their abbreviations, used by various foreign countries to identify legal commercial entities. The appendix also includes a description (Joint Stock Company, Cooperative Society, Trading Partnership, etc.) of the foreign designation and, in some cases, the equivalent United States entity. If a foreign designation, its abbreviation, or a description appears in the appendix, the examining attorney may accept any of those terms as the entity designation without further inquiry. The applicant may also choose to specify the legal entity by indicating the entity that would be its equivalent in the United States. However, if an applicant identifies itself by a name that includes a foreign entity designation in Appendix D (e.g., "Business SpA"), but provides a characterization of the entity that does not match the description (e.g., General Partnership), the examining attorney must clarify the nature of the applicant’s entity.

If a foreign entity designation, its abbreviation, or its description does not appear in Appendix D, the examining attorney must inquire further into the specific nature of the entity. The examining attorney may request a description of the nature of the foreign entity, if necessary.

The applicant must also specify the foreign country under the laws of which it is organized, but no additional information is required, even if additional information would be required for a United States entity of the same name.  For example, it is not necessary to set forth the names and citizenship of the partners of a foreign partnership.  The rule requiring names and citizenships of general partners (37 C.F.R. §2.32(a)(3)(iii) ) seeks to provide relevant information in the record, given the legal effects of partnership status in the United States.  Because the USPTO does not track the varying legal effects of partnership status in foreign countries, and the relevance of the additional information has not been established, the same requirement for additional information does not apply to foreign partnerships.

Foreign entities may be organized under either national or provincial laws.  However, the TEAS form requires an applicant to specify the state or foreign country under which it is legally organized, but does not permit an applicant to specify a foreign province or geographical region in this field.  Therefore, if the applicant is organized under the laws of a foreign province or geographical region, the applicant should select the entity type "Other" (rather than "Corporation," "Limited Liability Company," "Partnership," etc.), which will allow entry within the free-text field provided at "Specify Entity Type" of both the type of entity and the foreign province or geographical region under which it is organized (e.g., enter "corporation of Ontario" in the box labeled "If not listed above, please specify here:").  In the next section, "State or Country Where Legally Organized," the country (e.g., "Canada") should then be selected from the pull-down menu.