Monday, August 8, 2016

Today's Tip For Saving Your Trademark Filing Fee - Avoid Ornamental Use

Not everything can be registered as a federal trademark. Some registrations are refused registration due to statutory bars, such as marks that are likely to cause confusion with pre-existing marks and marks that are merely descriptive, while others simply do not function as trademarks.

Because the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) can only register "trademarks" (i.e. designations that indicate the source of a good or service), it will refuse registration to anything that does not indicate source and therefore does not function as a trademark.
A good example of a mark that is almost certain to be refuse registration for not functioning as a trademark is the mark seen above, filed by an individual in Washington on August 2nd. The goods listed on the application are "[v]inyl static cling decals on which warnings are printed for affixation [sic?] to windows" in Class 016.

Slogans or phrases, such as the one seen above, are generally refused registration as being merely ornamental rather than a trademark because "purchasers will perceive [the goods] as conveying a message rather than indicating the source of the goods." TMEP 1202.03(f)(i).

I commonly see this problem on applications for slogans on t-shirts. Most applicants want to register a big phrase or design on the front of a shirt. But as far as clothing goes, "small, neat, and discrete word[s] or design feature[s] may be likely to create the commercial impression of a trademark, whereas a larger rendition of the same matter emblazoned across the front of a garment...may be perceived merely as a decorative or ornamental feature of the goods." TMEP 1202.03(a). That's why you see companies like Nike and Ralph Lauren place small logos on the breast or arms of shirts.

If you saw a vinyl sticker with the phrase "DON'T BOTHER! EVERYTHING OF VALUE HAS BEEN REMOVED FROM THIS VEHICLE IT'S NOT WORTH IT!" would you perceive that phrase as conveying a message or indicating from whom the sticker originated?

If you said a message, I think you're right. In approximately three months when this application is assigned to an examining attorney in the USPTO, I think they will agree and refuse to register this mark for being ornamental and failing to function as a trademark as required by 15 U.S.C. 1051, 1052, and 1127. Unfortunately for the applicant, that means his $275 nonrefundable filing fee is all but lost.

No comments:

Post a Comment