Wednesday, 02 August 2017 22:31

USPTO Issues Guide For Failure-to-Function Refusal

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When applying for trademark/service mark registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), an examining attorney reviews the application to determine whether it complies with applicable statutes and rules. If there are any substantive, technical, or procedural deficiencies, the examining attorney will likely issue an Office Action letter explaining any of these refusals.  One of these refusals can be based on the proposed mark failing to function as a trademark because the proposed mark merely communicates information about the goods/services, uses widely used commonplace, social, political, or religious messages, or directly quotes passages or citations from religious texts. Some examples include: “I DC” for clothing items; “ONCE A MARINE, ALWAYS A MARINE” for various clothing items; “BRAND NAMES FOR LESS” for retail store services; and “PROUDLY MADE IN THE USA” for electric shavers.  

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently issued a guide for aiding in the determination of whether a proposed mark functions as mark.  The guide creates categories for types of matter that may be considered merely informational, discusses when an examining attorney must refuse registration or require a disclaimer, provides applicant response options, and illustrates case law examples. For example, under applicant response options, should the applicant receive this type of refusal, the applicant must show that the public perception of the proposed mark is that of a source indicator.  Evidence of the applicant's use as a mark or exclusive use in the relevant marketplace for the goods/services under the mark can be supportive towards overcoming this refusal.

Read 272 times Last modified on Thursday, 03 August 2017 18:46
Jessica Neer McDonald

Jessica earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida, magna cum laude, and graduated from the University of Miami School of Law, magna cum laude.  While in law school, she was a Miami Scholar active in various leadership roles, including Managing Editor of the Inter-American Law Review, Board Member of the Charles C. Papy Moot Court Board, Board Member of the Public Interest Leadership Board, Secretary of the Society of Bar and Gavel, and Student Board Member of the Student Affairs Committee of the University of Miami Board of Trustees.  Jessica has served the Florida legal community through legislative employment in the Florida Senate and House of Representatives, as well as through internships with Judge Adalberto Jordan, Magistrate Judge Edwin Torres, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.