The CFP Board and its Support for the Fiduciary Standard

Let’s explore whether the CFP Board, the most powerful and prominent organization supporting the advisory profession, can do more to support the adoption of a full fiduciary standard. We’ll also ask whether the CFP Board actually owns the trademark for “certified financial planner,” as it claims.

Bob Huebscher attended a dinner at Kevin Keller’s house in Washington, DC, a few weeks ago, along with Dan Moisand. They are the CEO and chair of the CFP Board, respectively. That was when the CFP Board revealed its plan to create a 501c6 arm to more freely and publicly advocate for the benefits of becoming a planner. We support this initiative, as Bob Veres has discussed in his Inside Information publication.

Indeed, we are not critics of the CFP Board. But we believe it could be doing more to advance fiduciary standards. First, however, let’s look at the trademark issues.

The trademark issue

A reader alerted one of us (Bob H.) that the CFP Board does not own the trademark for “certified financial planner.” A search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website revealed that this is correct. Its status is listed as “TSDR,” and it says, “The trademark application has been accepted by the Office (has met the minimum filing requirements) and has not yet been assigned to an examiner.”

In a written response to this issue, the CFP Board said it “has an enforceable trademark for ‘certified financial planner.’ This is an application for registration of that trademark.” (our italics)

But Bob H. checked with an attorney familiar with trademarks, and she confirmed that the rights in a pending trademark application are very limited. One does not have the rights of a federal trademark registration until the USPTO reviews and approves an application.

The attorney confirmed that the following statement is accurate:

While an application holds your place in line and does not allow someone else to file a same or similar trademark, it does not give you any additional enforcement rights. Essentially, you cannot ask someone to stop using a trademark based on your federal rights while your application is pending, because you do not yet have the rights of a federal trademark registration. You may still have limited “common law” rights which can be enforced. (our italics)