TMEP 1202.03-1202.16  Use of Subject Matter as Trademark

From Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP)

April 2013

(See TMEP 1202-1202.02(e) on previous page))


TMEP 1202.03  Refusal on Basis of Ornamentation

TMEP 1202.03(a) Commercial Impression

TMEP 1202.03(b) Practices of the Trade

TMEP 1202.03(c) “Secondary Source”

TMEP 1202.03(d) Evidence of Distinctiveness

TMEP 1202.03(e) Ornamentation with Respect to §1(b), §44, and §66(a) Applications

TMEP 1202.03(f) Ornamentation: Case References

TMEP 1202.03(f)(i) Slogans or Words Used on the Goods

TMEP 1202.03(f)(ii) Designs Used on the Goods

TMEP 1202.03(f)(iii) Trade Dress on the Containers for the Goods

TMEP 1202.03(g) Ornamentation Cases and Acquired Distinctiveness

TMEP 1202.04 Informational Matter

TMEP 1202.05 Color as a Mark

TMEP 1202.05(a) Color Marks Never Inherently Distinctive

TMEP 1202.05(b) Functional Color Marks Not Registrable

TMEP 1202.05(c) Color as a Separable Element

TMEP 1202.05(d) Drawings of Color Marks Required

TMEP 1202.05(d)(i) Drawings of Color Marks in Trademark Applications

TMEP 1202.05(d)(ii) Drawings of Color Marks in Service Mark Applications

TMEP 1202.05(d)(iii) Amendment of Drawings of Color Marks

TMEP 1202.05(d)(iv) Drawings for Marks Including Both Color and Words or Design

TMEP 1202.05(e) Written Explanation of a Color Mark

TMEP 1202.05(f) Specimens for Color Marks

TMEP 1202.05(g) Special Considerations for Service Mark Applications

TMEP 1202.05(h) Applications for Color Marks Based on §1(b)

TMEP 1202.05(i) Applications for Color Marks Based on §44 or §66(a)

TMEP 1202.06 Goods in Trade

TMEP 1202.06(a) Goods Must Have Utility to Others

TMEP 1202.06(b) Registration Must Be Refused if Trademark Not Used on Goods in Trade

TMEP 1202.06(c) “Goods in Trade” in §1(b), §44, and §66(a) Applications

TMEP 1202.07 Marks That Identify Columns or Sections of Publications

TMEP 1202.07(a) Marks That Identify Columns or Sections of Printed Publications

TMEP 1202.07(a)(i) Syndicated Columns and Sections

TMEP 1202.07(a)(ii) Non-Syndicated Columns and Sections

TMEP 1202.07(a)(iii) Marks That Identify Columns and Sections of Printed Publications in §1(b), §44, and §66(a) Applications

TMEP 1202.07(b) Marks That Identify Columns and Sections of Online Publications

TMEP 1202.08 Title of a Single Creative Work

TMEP 1202.08(a) What Constitutes a Single Creative Work

TMEP 1202.08(b) What Does Not Constitute a Single Creative Work

TMEP 1202.08(c) Complete Title of the Work – Evidence of a Series

TMEP 1202.08(d) Portion of a Title of the Work

TMEP 1202.08(d)(i) Mark Must Create a Separate Commercial Impression

TMEP 1202.08(d)(ii) Establishing a Series When the Mark is a Portion of the Title

TMEP 1202.08(d)(iii) Evidence that the Portion of the Title is Promoted or Recognized as a Mark

TMEP 1202.08(e) Identification of Goods/Services

TMEP 1202.08(f) Title of a Single Work in §1(b), §44, and §66(a) Applications

TMEP 1202.09 Names of Artists and Authors

TMEP 1202.09(a) Names and Pseudonyms of Authors and Performing Artists

TMEP 1202.09(a)(i) Author or Performer’s Name – Evidence of a Series

TMEP 1202.09(a)(ii) Evidence that the Name is a Source Identifier

TMEP 1202.09(a)(ii)(A) Promotion and Recognition of the Name

TMEP 1202.09(a)(ii)(B) Control over the Nature and Quality of the Goods

TMEP 1202.09(a)(iii) Names of Authors and Performing Artists in §1(b), §44, and §66(a) Applications

TMEP 1202.09(b) Names of Artists Used on Original Works of Art

TMEP 1202.10 Names and Designs of Characters in Creative Works

TMEP 1202.10(a) Names and Designs of Characters in Creative Works in §1(b), §44, or §66(a) Applications

TMEP 1202.11 Background Designs and Shapes

TMEP 1202.12 Varietal and Cultivar Names (Examination of Applications for Seeds and Plants)

TMEP 1202.13 Scent, Fragrance, or Flavor

TMEP 1202.14 Holograms

TMEP 1202.15 Sound Marks

TMEP 1202.16 Model or Grade Designations


TMEP 1202.03 Refusal on Basis of Ornamentation

Subject matter that is merely a decorative feature does not identify and distinguish the applicant’s goods and, thus, does not function as a trademark. A decorative feature may include words, designs, slogans, or trade dress. This matter should be refused registration because it is merely ornamentation and, therefore, does not function as a trademark, as required by §§1, 2, and 45 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1052, and 1127.

Generally, the ornamentation refusal applies only to trademarks, not to service marks. See TMEP §§1301.02–1301.02(f) regarding matter that does not function as a service mark.

Matter that serves primarily as a source indicator, either inherently or as a result of acquired distinctiveness, and that is only incidentally ornamental or decorative, can be registered as a trademark. In re Paramount Pictures Corp., 213 USPQ 1111, 1114 (TTAB 1982).

With regard to registrability, ornamental matter may be categorized along a continuum ranging from ornamental matter that is registrable on the Principal Register, to purely ornamental matter that is incapable of trademark significance and unregistrable under any circumstances, as follows:

(1) Ornamental matter that serves as an identifier of a “secondary source” is registrable on the Principal Register. For example, ornamental matter on a T-shirt (e.g., the designation “NEW YORK UNIVERSITY”) can convey to the purchasing public the “secondary source” of the T-shirt (rather than the manufacturing source). Thus, even where the T-shirt is distributed by a party other than that identified by the designation, sponsorship, or authorization by the identified party is indicated. See TMEP §1202.03(c).

(2) Ornamental matter that is neither inherently distinctive nor a secondary source indicator may be registered on the Principal Register under §2(f), if the applicant establishes that the subject matter has acquired distinctiveness as a mark in relation to the goods. See TMEP §1202.03(d).

(3) Ornamental matter that is neither inherently distinctive nor an indicator of secondary source, and has not acquired distinctiveness, but is capable of attaining trademark significance, may be registered on the Supplemental Register in an application under §1 or §44 of the Trademark Act.

(4) Some matter is determined to be purely ornamental and, thus, incapable of trademark significance and unregistrable on either the Principal Register or the Supplemental Register. See TMEP §1202.03(a).

The examining attorney should consider the following factors to determine whether ornamental matter can be registered: (1) the commercial impression of the proposed mark; (2)the relevant practices of the trade; (3)secondary source, if applicable; and (4)evidence of distinctiveness. These factors are discussed in the following sections.

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TMEP 1202.03(a) Commercial Impression

The examining attorney must determine whether the overall commercial impression of the proposed mark is that of a trademark. Matter that is purely ornamental or decorative does not function as a trademark and is unregistrable on either the Principal Register or the Supplemental Register.


The significance of the proposed mark is a factor to consider when determining whether ornamental matter serves a trademark function. Common expressions and symbols (e.g., the peace symbol, “smiley face,” or the phrase “Have a Nice Day”) are normally not perceived as marks.


The examining attorney must also consider the size, location, and dominance of the proposed mark, as applied to the goods, to determine whether ornamental matter serves a trademark function. In re Lululemon Athletica Can. Inc., 105 USPQ2d 1684, 1687 (TTAB 2013) (quoting In re Right-On Co., 87 USPQ2d 1152, 1156 (TTAB 2008)); In re Dimitri’s Inc., 9 USPQ2d 1666, 1667 (TTAB 1988); In re Astro-Gods Inc., 223 USPQ 621, 623 (TTAB 1984). A small, neat, and discrete word or design feature (e.g., small design of animal over pocket or breast portion of shirt) 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 (or a tote bag, or the like) may be perceived merely as a decorative or ornamental feature of the goods. However, a small, neat, and discrete word or design feature will not necessarily be perceived as a mark in all cases. Moreover, the size of the mark on clothing is only one consideration in determining the registrability of a mark. In re Lululemon Athletica Can. Inc., 105 USPQ2d at 1689.


TMEP 1202.03(b) Practices of the Trade

In determining whether a proposed mark is inherently distinctive, factors to be considered include whether the subject matter is unique or unusual in a particular field, as opposed to a mere refinement of a commonly adopted and well-known form of ornamentation for a particular class of goods that would be viewed by the public as a dress or ornamentation for the goods. See, e.g., In re General Tire & Rubber Co., 404 F.2d 1396, 1398, 160 USPQ 415, 417 (C.C.P.A. 1969) (affirming the ornamentation refusal of a mark comprising three narrow white concentric rings of approximately equal width applied to the outer surface of a dark sidewall tire; mark was a refinement of the practice, which consumers were familiar with, of whitewalls as decoration on tires); In re Chung, Jeanne & Kim Co., 226 USPQ 938, 941-42 (TTAB 1985) (finding that stripe design applied to sides of sport shoes was mere refinement of the common and well-known form of ornamentation in the field of sports shoes).

Even if a proposed mark is not inherently distinctive, it may be registered on the Principal Register if it has become distinctive of the applicant’s goods in commerce. See TMEP §1202.03(d). The practices of the trade may be relevant in assessing the applicant’s burden of proving that the proposed mark has become distinctive. Typically, more evidence is required if the proposed mark is a type of ornamental matter used so frequently in the relevant industry that consumers would be less apt to discern a source-indicating significance from its use. See Anchor Hocking Glass Corp. v. Corning Glass Works, 162 USPQ 288, 292-99 (TTAB 1969) (extensive evidence of record supported that cornflower design was recognized as a trademark for coffee percolators, culinary vessels, and utensils). Cf. In re Villeroy & Boch S.A.R.L., 5 USPQ2d 1451, 1454 (TTAB 1987) (affirming refusal to register design of morning glories and leaves for tableware, the Board noting that the design “has not been shown to be other than another decorative pattern without trademark significance....”).

If the applicant cannot show that the proposed mark has acquired distinctiveness, the mark in an application under §1 or §44 of the Trademark Act may be registered on the Supplemental Register if it is capable of distinguishing the applicant’s goods or services. 15 U.S.C. §1091. The practices of the trade may be relevant in determining whether a proposed mark is capable of distinguishing the goods or services. If the practices of the trade suggest that certain matter performs the function of a trademark by signifying to purchasers and prospective purchasers the goods of a particular entity and distinguishing them from the goods of others, the matter is assumed to be capable of distinguishing the applicant’s goods and, therefore, may be registered on the Supplemental Register. See In re Todd Co., 290 F.2d 597, 599-600, 129 USPQ 408, 410 (C.C.P.A. 1961) (holding that repeating pattern of green lines, used to cover the entire back surface of safety paper products (e.g., checks), was registrable on the Supplemental Register for safety paper products, where the record showed that it had long been the practice in the industry to use distinctive overall surface designs to indicate origin of the products).

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TMEP 1202.03(c) “Secondary Source”

To show that a proposed mark that is used on the goods in a decorative or ornamental manner also serves a source-indicating function, the applicant may submit evidence that the proposed mark would be recognized as a mark through its use with goods or services other than those being refused as ornamental. To show secondary source, the applicant may show: (1) ownership of a U.S. registration on the Principal Register of the same mark for other goods or services based on use in commerce under §1 of the Trademark Act; (2) ownership of a U.S. registration on the Principal Register of the same mark for other goods or services based on a foreign registration under §44(e) or §66(a) of the Trademark Act for which an affidavit or declaration of use in commerce under §8 or §71 has been accepted; (3) non-ornamental use of the mark in commerce on other goods or services; or (4) ownership of a pending use-based application for the same mark, used in a non-ornamental manner, for other goods or services. Ownership of an intent-to-use application for which no allegation of use under §1(c) or §1(d) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1051(c) or (d), has been filed is not sufficient to show secondary source. If the applicant establishes that the proposed mark serves as an identifier of secondary source, the matter is registrable on the Principal Register.

In In re Paramount Pictures Corp., 213 USPQ 1111, 1112 (TTAB 1982), the Board held that MORK & MINDY was registrable for decals because the applicant had a television series of that name and had previously registered MORK & MINDY for various goods and services, and found that the primary significance of the term MORK & MINDY to a prospective purchaser of decals was to indicate the television series and the principal characters of the television series. The Board held that the case was controlled by its decision in In re Olin Corp., 181 USPQ 182 (TTAB 1973) (stylized “O” design registrable for T-shirts, where applicant had previously registered the “O” design for skis), in which that Board had stated:

   It is a matter of common knowledge that T-shirts are “ornamented” with various insignia ... or … various sayings such as “Swallow Your Leader.” In that sense what is sought to be registered could be construed to be ornamental. If such ornamentation is without any meaning other than as mere ornamentation it is apparent that the ornamentation could not and would not serve as an indicia of source. Thus, to use our own example, “Swallow Your Leader” probably would not be considered as an indication of source.

Id. at 182.

In Paramount, the Board stated that “[t]he ‘ornamentation’ of a T-shirt can be of a special nature which is [sic] inherently tells the purchasing public the source of the T-shirt, not the source of manufacture but the secondary source.” 213 USPQ at 1112. Applying the test set forth in Olin, the Board found that “the paired names ‘MORK & MINDY’, while certainly part of the ornamentation of the decal, also indicate source or origin in the proprietor of the Mork & Mindy television series in the same sense as the stylized ‘O’ in Olin.” Id. at 1113. The Board noted that “while purchasers may be accustomed to seeing characters’ names and images as part of the ornamentation of decals, T-shirts and the like, they are also accustomed to seeing characters’ names and images used as trademarks to indicate source of origin.” Id. at 1114.

See also In re Watkins Glen Int’l, Inc., 227 USPQ 727, 729 (TTAB 1985) (reversing the refusal and finding stylized checkered flag design registrable for patches and clothing items, where applicant had previously registered WATKINS GLEN and checkered flag design (with “WATKINS GLEN” disclaimed) for services); In re Expo ‘74, 189 USPQ 48, 50 (TTAB 1975) (reversing the refusal and holding EXPO ‘74 registrable for handkerchiefs and T-shirts, since applicant, organizer of the 1974 World’s Fair, had previously registered EXPO ‘74 for other goods and services).

A series of ornamental uses of the proposed mark on various items will not establish that the proposed mark functions as an indicator of secondary source; use as a trademark for the other goods or services must be shown. See In re Astro-Gods Inc., 223 USPQ 621 (TTAB 1984) (affirming the refusal to register ASTRO GODS and design for T-shirts, despite applicant’s ornamental use of the proposed mark on other goods and appearance of applicant’s trade name “Astro Gods Inc.” on the T-shirt as part of a copyright notice).RETURN TO TOP


TMEP 1202.03(d) Evidence of Distinctiveness

As noted above, even if a proposed mark is not inherently distinctive, it may nevertheless be registered on the Principal Register under §2(f), 15 U.S.C. §1052(f), if it becomes distinctive of the applicant’s goods in commerce. See TMEP §§1212–1212.10 regarding acquired distinctiveness.

Generally, evidence of five years’ use alone is not sufficient to show acquired distinctiveness of a mark that is mere ornamentation. Concrete evidence that the proposed mark is perceived as a mark for the relevant goods or services is required to establish distinctiveness. See In re Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., 774 F.2d 1116, 227 USPQ 417 (Fed. Cir. 1985).


TMEP 1202.03(e) Ornamentation with Respect to §1(b), §44, and §66(a) Applications

nerally, the issue of ornamentation is tied to the use of the proposed mark as evidenced by the specimen. Therefore, unless the ornamental nature of the mark is clearly apparent from the drawing and description of the mark, no ornamentation refusal will be issued in an intent-to-use application until the applicant has submitted specimen(s) of use with an allegation of use under §1(c) or §1(d) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1051(c) or (d).

In an application under §44 or §66(a), where a specimen of use is not required prior to registration, it is appropriate for the examining attorney to issue an ornamentation refusal where the proposed mark on its face, as shown on the drawing and described in the description, reflects a failure to function. In re Right-On Co., 87 USPQ2d 1152, 1156-57 (TTAB 2008) (noting the propriety of and affirming an ornamentation refusal in a §66(a) application for a mark comprising pocket-stitching design for clothing).


TMEP 1202.03(f) Ornamentation: Case References

The following cases show the various ways in which ornamental matter was found not to function as a mark.

TMEP 1202.03(f)(i) Slogans or Words Used on the Goods

Slogans or phrases used on items such as t-shirts and sweatshirts, jewelry, and ceramic plates have been refused registration as ornamentation that purchasers will perceive as conveying a message rather than indicating the source of the goods. See In re Pro-Line Corp., 28 USPQ2d 1141 (TTAB 1993) (BLACKER THE COLLEGE SWEETER THE KNOWLEDGE primarily ornamental slogan that is not likely to be perceived as source indicator); In re Dimitri’s Inc., 9 USPQ2d 1666 (TTAB 1988) (SUMO, as used in connection with stylized representations of sumo wrestlers on applicant’s T-shirts and baseball-style caps, serves merely as an ornamental feature of applicant's goods); In re Original Red Plate Co., 223 USPQ 836 (TTAB 1984) (YOU ARE SPECIAL TODAY for ceramic plates found to be without any source-indicating significance); In re Astro-Gods Inc., 223 USPQ 621, 624 (TTAB 1984) (“[T]he designation ‘ASTRO GODS’ and design is not likely to be perceived as anything other than part of the thematic whole of the ornamentation of applicant’s shirts.”); Damn I’m Good Inc. v. Sakowitz, Inc., 514 F. Supp. 1357, 212 USPQ 684 (S.D.N.Y. 1981) (DAMN I’M GOOD, inscribed in large letters on bracelets and used on hang tags affixed to the goods, found to be without any source-indicating significance).

See also TMEP §1202.04 regarding informational matter.

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TMEP 1202.03(f)(ii) Designs Used on the Goods

See In re General Tire & Rubber Co., 404 F.2d 1396, 160 USPQ 415 (C.C.P.A. 1969) (three narrow white concentric rings of approximately equal width applied to the outer surface of a dark sidewall tire considered just a refinement of a general ornamental concept rather than a trademark); In re David Crystal, Inc., 296 F.2d 771, 132 USPQ 1 (C.C.P.A. 1961) (two parallel colored bands at the top of the sock, the upper band red, and the lower band blue, for men’s ribbed socks held merely ornamental absent convincing evidence that the purchasing public recognized the design as a trademark); In re Sunburst Prods., Inc., 51 USPQ2d 1843 (TTAB 1999) (combination of matching color of watch bezel and watch band and contrasting colors of watch case and watch bezel for sports watches found to be nothing more than a mere refinement of a common or basic color scheme for sports watches and, therefore, would not immediately be recognized or perceived as a source indicator); In re Villeroy & Boch S.A.R.L., 5 USPQ2d 1451 (TTAB 1987) (floral pattern design of morning glories and leaves for tableware not distinctive and not shown to be other than decorative pattern without trademark significance).


TMEP 1202.03(f)(iii) Trade Dress on the Containers for the Goods

See In re J. Kinderman & Sons Inc., 46 USPQ2d 1253 (TTAB 1998) (design of container for Christmas decorations that resembles a wrapped Christmas gift not inherently distinctive); In re F.C.F. Inc., 30 USPQ2d 1825 (TTAB 1994) (rose design used on cosmetics packaging is essentially ornamental or decorative background and does not function as mark); In re Petersen Mfg. Co., 2 USPQ2d 2032 (TTAB 1987) (design representing the rear panel of a container for hand tools held unregistrable as merely ornamental, notwithstanding §2(f) claim).


TMEP 1202.03(g) Ornamentation Cases and Acquired Distinctiveness

In the following cases, subject matter sought to be registered was found to have acquired distinctiveness as a trademark: In re Jockey Int’l, Inc., 192 USPQ 579 (TTAB 1976) (inverted Y design used on underwear found to have acquired distinctiveness, where evidence showed extensive use on packaging and in advertising in a manner calculated to draw the attention of prospective purchasers to the design and for them to look at the design as a badge of origin); Anchor Hocking Glass Corp. v. Corning Glass Works, 162 USPQ 288 (TTAB 1969) (blue cornflower design for coffee percolators, culinary vessels, and utensils found to have acquired distinctiveness, where evidence showed extensive and prominent use of the design in advertising, use of the design on pins and aprons worn by sales promotion representatives in the course of their duties, and surveys and statements of purchasers indicating that they recognized the design as indicating origin in applicant).

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TMEP 1202.04 Informational Matter

Slogans and other terms that are considered to be merely informational in nature, or to be common laudatory phrases or statements that would ordinarily be used in business or in the particular trade or industry, are not registrable. In re Boston Beer Co., 198 F.3d 1370, 53 USPQ2d 1056 (Fed. Cir. 1999) (THE BEST BEER IN AMERICA so highly laudatory and descriptive as applied to beer and ale that it is incapable of acquiring distinctiveness); In re T.S. Designs, Inc., 95 USPQ2d 1669 (TTAB 2010) (holding CLOTHING FACTS informational based on the likely consumer perception of the phrase, when used on a clothing label, in connection with manufacturing information); In re Aerospace Optics, Inc., 78 USPQ2d 1861 (TTAB 2006) (SPECTRUM fails to function as a mark for illuminated pushbutton switches, where the mark is used in a manner that merely informs potential purchasers of the multiple color feature of the goods, and the coloring and font in which the mark is displayed are not sufficient to imbue the term with source-identifying significance or to set it apart from other informational wording); In re Volvo Cars of N. Am., Inc., 46 USPQ2d 1455 (TTAB 1998) (DRIVE SAFELY perceived as an everyday, commonplace safety admonition that does not function as mark); In re Manco Inc., 24 USPQ2d 1938, 1942 (TTAB 1992) (THINK GREEN and design unregistrable for weatherstripping and paper products, the Board stating, “rather than being regarded as an indicator of source, the term ‘THINK GREEN’ would be regarded simply as a slogan of environmental awareness and/or ecological consciousness . . . .”); In re Southbrook Entm’t Corp., 8 USPQ2d 1166 (TTAB 1988) (HI-YO-SILVER for videotapes and cassettes held to be a well known expression closely linked to a character that does not function as a mark); In re Remington Prods., Inc., 3 USPQ2d 1714 (TTAB 1987) (PROUDLY MADE IN USA, for electric shavers, held incapable of functioning as a mark, notwithstanding use of letters “TM” in connection with prominent display of slogan on packages for the goods and claim of acquired distinctiveness); In re Tilcon Warren, Inc., 221 USPQ 86 (TTAB 1984) (WATCH THAT CHILD held not to function as a mark for construction material notwithstanding long use, where the only use was on the bumpers of construction vehicles in which the goods were transported); In re Schwauss, 217 USPQ 361 (TTAB 1983) (FRAGILE used on labels and bumper stickers does not function as a mark).

A slogan can function as a trademark if it is not merely descriptive or informational. See, e.g., Roux Labs., Inc. v. Clairol Inc., 427 F.2d 823, 166 USPQ 34 (C.C.P.A. 1970) (affirming the Board’s dismissal of an opposition to the registration of HAIR COLOR SO NATURAL ONLY HER HAIRDRESSER KNOWS FOR SURE for hair coloring preparation since the evidence showed the slogan functioned as a mark); In re The Hallicrafters Co., 153 USPQ 376 (TTAB 1967) (reversing the refusal to register where QUALITY THROUGH CRAFTSMANSHIP for radio equipment functioned as a mark). See TMEP §1202.03(f)(i) regarding ornamental slogans used on goods.

See TMEP §1301.02(a) regarding informational matter that does not function as a service mark.

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TMEP 1202.05 Color as a Mark

Color marks are marks that consist solely of one or more colors used on particular objects. For marks used in connection with goods, color may be used on the entire surface of the goods, on a portion of the goods, or on all or part of the packaging for the goods. For example, a color trademark might consist of purple used on a salad bowl, pink used on the handle of a shovel, or a blue background and a pink circle used on all or part of a product package. See Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Prods. Co., 514 U.S. 159, 34 USPQ2d 1161 (1995) (green-gold used on dry cleaning press pads held to be a protectible trademark where the color had acquired secondary meaning); In re Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., 774 F.2d 1116, 227 USPQ 417 (Fed. Cir. 1985) (the color pink as applied to fibrous glass residential insulation registrable where the evidence showed the color had acquired secondary meaning). Similarly, service marks may consist of color used on all or part of materials used in the advertising and rendering of the services.

The registrability of a color mark depends on the manner in which the proposed mark is used. Owens-Corning, 774 F.2d at 1120, 227 USPQ at 419. A color(s) takes on the characteristics of the object or surface to which it is applied, and the commercial impression of a color will change accordingly. See In re Thrifty, Inc., 274 F.3d 1349, 1353, 61 USPQ2d 1121, 1124 (Fed. Cir. 2001) (“a word mark retains its same appearance when used on different objects, but color is not immediately distinguishable as a service mark when used in similar circumstances”).

Color marks are never inherently distinctive, and cannot be registered on the Principal Register without a showing of acquired distinctiveness under §2(f) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(f). Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Samara Bros., 529 U.S. 205, 211-12, 54 USPQ2d 1065, 1068 (2000). See TMEP §1202.05(a) and cases cited therein.

Color, whether a single overall color or multiple colors applied in a specific and arbitrary fashion, is usually perceived as an ornamental feature of the goods or services. Owens-Corning, 774 F.2d at 1124, 227 USPQ at 422; In re Hudson News Co., 39 USPQ2d 1915, 1923 (TTAB 1996), aff’d per curiam, 114 F.3d 1207 (Fed. Cir. 1997) (“blue motif” used in retail stores would likely be perceived by prospective purchasers as “nothing more than interior decoration” that “could be found in any number of retail establishments. Undoubtedly such features are usually perceived as interior decoration or ornamentation.”). However, color can function as a mark if it is used in the manner of a trademark or service mark and if it is perceived by the purchasing public to identify and distinguish the goods or services on or in connection with which it is used and to indicate their source. The United States Supreme Court has held that color alone may, sometimes, meet the basic legal requirements for a trademark. When it does, there is no rule that prevents color from serving as a mark. Qualitex, 514 U.S. at 161, 34 USPQ2d at 1162. If a color is not functional and is shown to have acquired distinctiveness on or in connection with the applicant’s goods or services, it is registrable as a mark.

Functional color marks are not registrable. See TMEP §1202.05(b) and cases cited therein.

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TMEP 1202.05(a) Color Marks Never Inherently Distinctive

Color marks are never inherently distinctive. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Samara Bros., 529 U.S. 205, 211-12, 54 USPQ2d 1065, 1068 (2000) (citing Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Prods. Co., 514 U.S. 159, 162-63, 34 USPQ2d 1161, 1162-63 (1995)); In re Thrifty, Inc., 274 F.3d 1349, 1353, 61 USPQ2d 1121, 1124 (Fed. Cir. 2001). Therefore, the examining attorney must refuse to register a color mark on the Principal Register, unless the applicant establishes that the proposed mark has acquired distinctiveness under §2(f). The examining attorney must issue this refusal in all color mark applications where acquired distinctiveness has not been shown, regardless of the filing basis of the application. The ground for refusal is that the color is not inherently distinctive and, thus, does not function as a trademark under §§1, 2, and 45 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1052, and 1127 , or does not function as a service mark under §§1, 2, 3, and 45, 15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1052, 1053, and 1127.

If the proposed color mark is not functional, it may be registrable on the Principal Register if it is shown to have acquired distinctiveness under §2(f). If it is not distinctive, it is registrable only on the Supplemental Register. See In re Hudson News Co., 39 USPQ2d 1915, 1923 (TTAB 1996), aff’d per curiam, 114 F.3d 1207 (Fed. Cir. 1997) (“blue motif” applied to retail store services not registrable on Principal Register without resort to Section 2(f)); Edward Weck Inc. v. IM Inc., 17 USPQ2d 1142, 1145 (TTAB 1990) (the color green, as uniformly applied to medical instruments, not barred from registration on the basis of functionality; however, evidence failed to establish the color had become distinctive of the goods); In re Deere & Co., 7 USPQ2d 1401, 1403-04 (TTAB 1988) (the colors green and yellow, as applied to the body and wheels of machines, respectively, not barred from registration on the basis of functionality; evidence established the colors had become distinctive of the goods).

The burden of proving that a color mark has acquired distinctiveness is substantial. See In re Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., 774 F.2d 1116, 227 USPQ 417 (Fed. Cir. 1985) (the color pink, as uniformly applied to fibrous glass residential insulation, shown to have acquired distinctiveness ); In re Lorillard Licensing Co., 99 USPQ2d 1312 (TTAB 2011) (finding the evidence insufficient to demonstrate that the applied-for mark, "namely, any orange text appearing on a green background," had achieved acquired distinctiveness); In re Benetton Grp. S.p.A., 48 USPQ2d 1214 (TTAB 1998) (evidence insufficient to establish that green rectangular background design had acquired distinctiveness as applied to clothing and footwear); In re American Home Prods. Corp., 226 USPQ 327 (TTAB 1985) (tri-colored, three-dimensional, circular-shaped design found to have become distinctive of analgesic and muscle relaxant tablets); In re Star Pharms., Inc., 225 USPQ 209 (TTAB 1985) (evidence found insufficient to establish that two-colored drug capsules and multi-colored seeds or granules contained therein had become distinctive of methyltestosterone). A mere statement of long use is not sufficient. See, e.g., Benetton, 48 USPQ2d at 1216-17 (despite long use, record devoid of any evidence that the green rectangular background design has been used, promoted, or advertised as a mark). The applicant must demonstrate that the color has acquired source-indicating significance in the minds of consumers.

As noted above, the commercial impression of a color may change depending on the object to which it is applied. Therefore, evidence submitted to demonstrate acquired distinctiveness of a color may show consumer recognition with respect to certain objects, but not for other objects. See Thrifty, 274 F.3d at 1353, 61 USPQ2d at 1124. Cf. Qualitex, 514 U.S. at 163, 34 USPQ2d at 1162-63 (“The imaginary word ‘Suntost,’ or the words ‘Suntost Marmalade,’ on a jar of orange jam immediately would signal a brand or a product ‘source’; the jam’s orange color does not do so. But, over time, customers may come to treat a particular color on a product or its packaging (say, a color that in context seems unusual, such as pink on a firm’s insulating material or red on the head of a large industrial bolt) as signifying a brand. And, if so, that color would have come to identify and distinguish the goods -- i. e., ‘to indicate’ their ‘source...’”).

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TMEP 1202.05(b) Functional Color Marks Not Registrable

A color mark is not registrable on the Principal Register under §2(f), or the Supplemental Register, if the color is functional. See Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Prods. Co., 514 U.S. 159, 165-66, 34 USPQ2d 1161 (1995); Brunswick Corp. v. British Seagull Ltd., 35 F.3d 1527, 32 USPQ2d 1120 (Fed. Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 514 U.S. 1050 (1995); In re Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., 774 F.2d 1116, 227 USPQ 417 (Fed. Cir. 1985). A color may be functional if it yields a utilitarian or functional advantage, for example, yellow or orange for safety signs. Brunswick, 35 F.3d 1527, 32 USPQ2d 1120 (holding the color black functional for outboard motors because, while the color did not provide utilitarian advantages in terms of making the engines work better, it nevertheless provided recognizable competitive advantages in terms of being compatible with a wide variety of boat colors and making the engines appear smaller); In re Florists’ Transworld Delivery Inc., __ USPQ2d ____, Serial No. 77590475 (TTAB March 28, 2013) (finding the color black for floral packaging functional because there was a competitive need for others in the industry to use black in connection with floral arrangements and flowers to communicate a desired sentiment or occasion, such as elegance, bereavement, or Halloween) Saint-Gobain Corp. v. 3M Co., 90 USPQ2d 1425, 1446-47 (TTAB 2007) (deep purple shade for coated abrasives held functional, the Board finding that opposer had established a prima facie case that coated abrasive manufacturers have a competitive need to be able to use various shades of purple, include applicant’s shade, which applicant had failed to rebut; and that “[i]n the field of coated abrasives, color serves a myriad of functions, including color coding, and the need to color code lends support for the basic finding that color, including purple, is functional in the field of coated abrasives having paper or cloth backing.”); In re Ferris Corp., 59 USPQ2d 1587 (TTAB 2000) (color pink used on surgical wound dressings is functional because the actual color of the goods closely resembles Caucasian human skin); In re Orange Commc'ns, Inc., 41 USPQ2d 1036 (TTAB 1996) (colors yellow and orange held to be functional for public telephones and telephone booths, since they are more visible under all lighting conditions in the event of an emergency); In re Howard S. Leight & Assocs.., 39 USPQ2d 1058 (TTAB 1996) (color coral held to be functional for earplugs, because it is more visible during safety checks). A color may also be functional if it is more economical to manufacture or use. For example, a color may be a natural by-product of the manufacturing process for the goods. In such a case, appropriation of the color by a single party would place others at a competitive disadvantage by requiring them to alter the manufacturing process.

See also In re Pollak Steel Co., 314 F.2d 566, 136 USPQ 651 (C.C.P.A. 1963) (reflective color on fence found to be functional); Kasco Corp. v. Southern Saw Serv. Inc., 27 USPQ2d 1501 (TTAB 1993) (color green used as wrapper for saw blades is functional when the color is one of the six colors used in a color-coding system to identify the type of blade); R.L. Winston Rod Co. v. Sage Mfg. Co., 838 F. Supp. 1396, 29 USPQ2d 1779 (D. Mont. 1993) (color green used on graphite fishing rods found to be functional); Russell Harrington Cutlery Inc. v. Zivi Hercules Inc., 25 USPQ2d 1965 (D. Mass. 1992) (color white used on cutlery handles found to be functional).

The doctrine of “aesthetic functionality” may apply in some cases where the evidence indicates that the color at issue provides specific competitive advantages that, while not necessarily categorized as purely “utilitarian” in nature, nevertheless dictate that the color remain in the public domain. Brunswick, 35 F.3d at 1533, 32 USPQ2d at 1124; In re Florists’ Transworld Delivery Inc., __ USPQ2d at ____. See also TrafFix Devices, Inc. v. Mktg. Displays, Inc., 532 U.S. 23, 33, 58 USPQ2d 1001, 1006 (2001) (Supreme Court discussed aesthetic functionality, distinguishing Qualitex, 514 US 159, 34 USPQ2d 1161, as a case where “aesthetic functionality was the central question…”). See TMEP §1202.02(a)(vi).

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TMEP 1202.05(c) Color as a Separable Element

As with all trademarks and service marks, a color mark may contain only those elements that make a separable commercial impression. See TMEP §807.12(d). Accordingly, an applicant may not seek to register the color of the wording or design apart from the words or designs themselves if the color does not create a separate commercial impression. However, the applicant may register the color of the background material on which the words or design appear apart from the words or design. See TMEP §1202.11 regarding background designs and shapes.

The commercial impression of a color may change depending on the object to which it is applied. In re Thrifty, Inc., 274 F.3d 1349, 61 USPQ2d 1121 (Fed. Cir. 2001); In re Hayes, 62 USPQ2d 1443 (TTAB 2002). Granting an application for registration of color in the abstract, without considering the manner or context in which the color is used, would be contrary to law and public policy, because it would result in an unlimited number of marks being claimed in a single application. Cf. In re Int’l Flavors & Fragrances Inc., 183 F.3d 1361, 1368, 51 USPQ2d 1513, 1517-18 (Fed. Cir. 1999) (mark with changeable or “phantom” element unregistrable because it would “encompass too many combinations and permutations to make a thorough and effective search possible” and, therefore, would not provide adequate notice to the public); In re Upper Deck Co., 59 USPQ2d 1688, 1691 (TTAB 2001) (hologram of varying shapes, sizes, content, and positions used on trading cards constitutes more than one “device,” as contemplated by §45 of the Trademark Act). Only one mark can be registered in a single application. TMEP §807.01.


TMEP 1202.05(d) Drawings of Color Marks Required

All marks, other than sound and scent marks, require a drawing. TMEP §807. An application for a color mark that is filed without a drawing will be denied a filing date. 37 C.F.R. §2.21(a)(3). Similarly, an application for a color mark with a proposed drawing page that states “no drawing,” or sets forth only a written description of the mark, will be denied a filing date. The drawing provides notice of the nature of the mark sought to be registered. Only marks that are not capable of representation in a drawing, such as sound or scent marks, are excluded from the requirement for a drawing. Color marks are visual and should be depicted in color drawings, accompanied by: (1) a color claim naming the color(s) that are a feature of the mark; and (2) a separate statement naming the color(s) and describing where the color(s) appear and how they are used on the mark. 37 C.F.R. §2.52(b)(1). See TMEP §§807.07–807.07(g) for color mark drawings and 808–808.03(f) for description of the mark.

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TMEP 1202.05(d)(i) Drawings of Color Marks in Trademark Applications

In most cases, the proposed color mark drawing will consist of a representation of the product or product package. The drawing of the mark must be a substantially exact representation of the mark as used, or intended to be used, on the goods. 37 C.F.R. §2.51. A depiction of the object on which the color is used is needed to meet this requirement.

The object depicted on the drawing should appear in broken or dotted lines. The broken or dotted lines inform the viewer where and how color is used on the product or product package, while at the same time making it clear that the shape of the product, or the shape of the product package, is not claimed as part of the mark. 37 C.F.R. §2.52(b)(4); TMEP §807.08. In the absence of a broken-line drawing, the USPTO will assume that the proposed mark is a composite mark consisting of the product shape, or the product package shape, in a particular color.


Color used on multiple goods

If the proposed color mark is used on multiple goods, the drawing required will depend on the nature of the goods. The drawing of the mark must be a substantially exact representation of the mark as used, or intended to be used, on the goods. 37 C.F.R. §2.51. A drawing consisting of a depiction of only one of the goods will be accepted if the goods, or the portions of the goods on which the color appears, are similar in form and function so that a depiction of only one of the goods is still a substantially exact representation of the mark as used on all of the goods. For example, if the mark is the color purple used on refrigerators and freezers, a drawing of a purple freezer shown in broken lines (with a description of the mark claiming the color purple and indicating that it is used on the freezer) would be sufficient. Or, if the mark is the color pink used on the handles of rakes, shovels, and hoes, a drawing of any of those items depicted in dotted lines (with a description of the mark claiming the color pink and stating that the handle is pink) would be sufficient. Or, if the mark consists of product packaging for various food items that is always blue with a pink circle, a drawing of any one of the packages shown in dotted lines (with a description of the mark claiming the colors blue and pink and describing the location of the colors on the packaging) would be sufficient.

If the proposed color mark is used on multiple goods that are dissimilar or unrelated, or if color is used in different ways on different goods, so that a depiction of one of the goods is not a substantially exact representation of the mark as used on all of the goods (e.g., the color purple used on microscopes and vending machines), a separate application must be submitted for each item.


Color used on liquids or powders

Sometimes a color mark consists of color(s) used on liquids or powders. For example, the mark might consist of fuchsia body oil or red, white, and blue granular washing machine detergent. In these cases, the nature of the drawing will depend on the manner of use of the liquid or powder. If the liquid or powder is visible through the product package, the drawing should consist of the shape of the product package shown in broken or dotted lines, with the description of the mark identifying the color(s) of the liquid or powder.

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TMEP 1202.05(d)(ii) Drawings of Color Marks in Service Mark Applications

It is difficult to anticipate all of the issues that may arise when examining a proposed color mark for services because there are a myriad of ways that color can be used in connection with services. However, the following general guidelines will be used to determine the sufficiency of drawings in these cases:

· The purpose of a drawing is to provide notice to the public of the nature of the mark. As with color used on goods, a color service mark does not consist of color in the abstract. Rather, the mark consists of color used in a particular manner, and the context in which the color is used is critical to provide notice of the nature of the mark sought to be registered. Therefore, as with color marks used on goods, a drawing, supplemented with a written description of the mark, is required.

· The drawing must display the manner in which the mark is used in connection with the services. As with any application, only one mark can be registered in a single application. TMEP §807.01. The mark depicted on the drawing, as used on the specimen, must make a separate and distinct commercial impression in order to be considered one mark. See In re Thrifty, Inc., 274 F.3d 1349, 61 USPQ2d 1121 (Fed. Cir. 2001); In re Chemical Dynamics Inc., 839 F.2d 1569, 5 USPQ2d 1828 (Fed. Cir. 1988). See TMEP §1202.05(c) regarding color as a separable element.

· If color is used in a variety of ways, but in a setting that makes a single commercial impression, such as a retail outlet with various color features, a broken-line drawing of the setting must be submitted, with a detailed description of the mark claiming the color(s) and describing the location of the color(s).

· If an applicant seeks to register a single color as a service mark used on a variety of items not viewed simultaneously by purchasers, e.g., stationery, uniforms, pens, signs, shuttle buses, store awning, and walls of the store, the drawing must display a solid-colored square with a dotted peripheral outline and include a detailed description of the mark identifying the color and describing its placement. Thrifty, 274 F.3d at 1353, 61 USPQ2d at 1124. Applicant will receive a filing date for its application. However, as yet, the issues raised by the use of this type of drawing, e.g., sufficient notice to the public and phantom marks, have not yet been decided by the USPTO. Cf. In re Int’l Flavors & Fragrances Inc., 183 F.3d 1361, 1368, 51 USPQ2d 1513, 1517-18 (Fed. Cir. 1999). See TMEP §1202.05(c) regarding color as a separable element.

· The commercial impression of a color may change depending on the object on which it is applied. See Thrifty, 274 F.3d at 1353, 61 USPQ2d at 1124.


TMEP 1202.05(d)(iii) Amendment of Drawings of Color Marks

Because color marks are comprised solely of the color as applied to the product or product package, in the manner depicted on the drawing and explained in the description of the mark, amending the color of the proposed mark will always change the commercial impression of the mark. Thus, the amendment of any color in a color mark is a prohibited material alteration. Similarly, the amendment of the color mark to show the same color on a different object is also, generally, a material alteration, e.g., an amendment of a drawing of a blue hammer to a blue saw is a material alteration.

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TMEP 1202.05(d)(iv) Drawings for Marks Including Both Color and Words or Design

Sometimes, a product or advertisement for a service will include both color and words or a design. For example, the surface of a toaster might be green, with the letters “ABC” and a design displayed on the toaster. In this situation, the applicant must decide whether to seek registration for the color green used on toasters, the letters “ABC” with or without the design, the design alone, or some combination of these elements. If applicant only seeks registration for the use of the color, no word or design elements should appear on the drawing.


TMEP 1202.05(e) Written Descriptions of Color Marks

The drawing of a proposed color mark must be supplemented with: (1) a claim that the color(s) is a feature of the mark; and (2) a statement in the “Description of the Mark” field naming the color(s) and describing where the color(s) appear(s) and how they are used on the mark. 37 C.F.R. §2.52(b)(1). See TMEP §§807.07–807.07(g) for color mark drawings and 808–808.03(f) for description of the mark.

The description of the mark must be clear and specific, use ordinary language, and identify the mark as consisting of the particular color as applied to the goods or services. If the color is applied only to a portion of the goods, the description must indicate the specific portion. Similarly, if the mark includes gradations of color, the description should so indicate. If the applicant is claiming a shade of color, the shade must be described in ordinary language, for example, “maroon,” “turquoise,” “navy blue,” “reddish orange.” This is required even if the applicant also describes the color using a commercial coloring system.

The applicant may not amend the description of the mark if the amendment is a material alteration of the mark on the drawing filed with the original application. 37 C.F.R. §2.72. See In re Thrifty, Inc., 274 F.3d 1349, 61 USPQ2d 1121 (Fed. Cir. 2001). Cf. In re Hacot-Colombier, 105 F.3d 616, 41 USPQ2d 1523 (Fed. Cir. 1997). See TMEP §§807.14–807.14(f) regarding material alteration.

The description of a color mark must be limited to a single mark, because only one mark can be registered in a single application. See In re Int'l Flavors & Fragrances Inc., 183 F.3d 1361, 51 USPQ2d 1513 (Fed. Cir. 1999); In re Hayes, 62 USPQ2d 1443 (TTAB 2002). See TMEP §§807.01 regarding drawing must be limited to a single mark and 1202.05(c) regarding color as a separable element.


TMEP 1202.05(f) Specimens for Color Marks

An application under § 1 of the Trademark Act must be supported by a specimen that shows use of the proposed mark depicted on the drawing. Therefore, an applicant who applies to register a color mark must submit a specimen showing use of the color, either with a §1(a) application or with an allegation of use (i.e., either an amendment to allege use under 15 U.S.C. §1051(c) or a statement of use under 15 U.S.C. §1051(d)), in a §1(b) application. If a black-and-white specimen is submitted, the examining attorney will require a substitute specimen displaying the proposed color mark. See TMEP §904.02(c)(ii).

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TMEP 1202.05(g) Special Considerations for Service Mark Applications

Although the applicant in In re Thrifty, Inc., 274 F.3d 1349, 61 USPQ2d 1121 (Fed. Cir. 2001), argued that it applied for the color blue per se as a service mark, the Court determined that the drawing controlled, such that the application was for the color blue applied to a building. Although the Court did not reach the issue of color per se as a service mark, the Court acknowledged the special evidentiary problem associated with showing acquired distinctiveness in this context. Id. at 1353, 61 USPQ2d at 1124 (“[E]vidence submitted to demonstrate acquired distinctiveness of a color may show consumer recognition with respect to certain objects (e.g., blue vehicle rental centers), but not for other objects (e.g., blue rental cars).”). Accordingly, any claim to color per se must be specific as to use and include evidence of acquired distinctiveness for each claimed use.


TMEP 1202.05(h) Applications for Color Marks Based on §1(b)

A color mark can never be inherently distinctive. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Samara Bros., 529 U.S. 205, 211-12, 54 USPQ2d 1065, 1068 (2000) (citing Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Prods. Co., 514 U.S. 159, 162-63, 34 USPQ2d 1161, 1162-63 (1995)); TMEP §1202.05(a). Therefore, the examining attorney must refuse to register a color mark on the Principal Register unless the applicant establishes that the mark has acquired distinctiveness under §2(f). The ground for refusal is that the color is not inherently distinctive and, thus, does not function as a trademark under §§1, 2, and 45 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1052, and 1127, or does not function as a service mark under §§1, 2, 3, and 45, 15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1052, 1053, and 1127.

The issue of whether the proposed color mark is functional requires consideration of the manner in which the mark is used. Generally, no refusal on these grounds will be issued in a §1(b) application until the applicant has submitted specimen(s) of use with an allegation of use (i.e., either an amendment to allege use under 15 U.S.C. §1051(c) or a statement of use under 15 U.S.C. §1051(d)). See TMEP §§1102.01, 1202.02(d), 1202.03(e), and 1202.05(b). The specimen(s) provide a better record upon which to determine the registrability of the mark. In appropriate cases, the examining attorney will bring the potential refusal to the applicant’s attention in the initial Office action. This is done strictly as a courtesy. If information regarding this possible ground for refusal is not provided to the applicant before the allegation of use is filed, the USPTO is not precluded from refusing registration on this basis.


TMEP 1202.05(i) Applications for Color Marks Based on §44 or §66(a)

A color mark can never be inherently distinctive. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Samara Bros., 529 U.S. 205, 211-12, 54 USPQ2d 1065, 1068 (2000) (citing Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Prods. Co., 514 U.S. 159, 162-63, 34 USPQ2d 1161, 1162-63 (1995)); TMEP §1202.05(a). Therefore, the examining attorney must refuse to register a proposed color mark on the Principal Register unless the applicant establishes that the mark has acquired distinctiveness under §2(f). The ground for refusal is that the color is not inherently distinctive and, thus, does not function as a trademark under §§1, 2, and 45 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1052, and 1127, or does not function as a service mark under §§1, 2, 3, and 45, 15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1052, 1053, and 1127.

If the record indicates that the proposed mark is functional, the examining attorney should issue a refusal of registration on the Principal Register under §2(f), or on the Supplemental Register. See TMEP §§1202.02(e), 1202.03(e), and 1202.05(b). NOTE: A mark in a §66(a) application cannot be registered on the Supplemental Register under any circumstances. 15 U.S.C. §1141h(a)(4); 37 C.F.R. §§2.47(c) and 2.75(c).

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TMEP 1202.06 Goods in Trade

Section 45 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1127, defines a “trademark” as a “word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof” that is used or intended to be used in commerce “to identify and distinguish his or her goods (emphasis added).” Before rights in a term as a trademark can be established, the subject matter to which the term is applied must be “goods in trade.” Incidental items that an applicant uses in conducting its business (such as letterhead, invoices, reports, boxes, and business forms), as opposed to items sold or transported in commerce for use by others, are not “goods in trade.” See In re Shareholders Data Corp., 495 F.2d 1360, 181 USPQ 722 (C.C.P.A. 1974) (finding that reports are not goods in trade, where applicant is not engaged in the sale of reports, but solely in furnishing financial reporting services, and reports are merely conduit through which services are rendered); In re Thomas White Int’l, Ltd., 106 USPQ2d 1158, 1162-63 (TTAB 2013) (finding that applicant’s annual report does not constitute a “good in trade,” but rather “is a common and necessary adjunct to the rendering of applicant's investment management and research services, that is, it is one of the means through which it provides investment services”); In re Ameritox Ltd., 101 USPQ2d 1081, 1085 (TTAB 2011) (finding no evidence that applicant was engaged in selling printed reports apart from its laboratory testing services and that the reports were part and parcel of the services); In re MGA Entm’t, Inc., 84 USPQ2d 1743 (TTAB 2007) (stating that applicant’s trapezoidal cardboard boxes for toys, games, and playthings held to be merely point of sale containers for applicant’s primary goods and not separate goods in trade, where there was no evidence that applicant is a manufacturer of boxes or that applicant is engaged in selling boxes as commodities in trade); In re Compute-Her-Look, Inc., 176 USPQ 445 (TTAB 1972) (finding that reports and printouts not goods in trade, where they are merely the means by which the results of a beauty analysis service is transmitted and have no viable existence separate and apart from the service); Ex parte Bank of Am. Nat’l Trust and Sav. Ass’n, 118 USPQ 165 (Comm’r Pats. 1958) (mark not registrable for passbooks, checks, and other printed forms, where forms are used only as "necessary 'tools' in the performance of [banking services], and [applicant] is not engaged either in printing or selling forms as commodities in trade.").

The determination of whether an applicant's identified goods comprise independent goods in trade, or are merely incidental to the applicant's services, is a factual determination to be made on a case-by-case basis. In re Thomas White Int’l, Ltd. 106 USPQ2d at 1161 (citing Lens.com, Inc. v. 1-800 Contacts, Inc., 686 F.3d 1376, 1381-82, 103 USPQ2d 1672, 1676 (Fed. Cir. 2012)). Factors to consider include “whether [applicant's good]: (1) is simply the conduit or necessary tool useful only to obtain applicant’s services; (2) is so inextricably tied to and associated with the service as to have no viable existence apart therefrom; and (3) is neither sold separately from nor has any independent value apart from the services.” In re Thomas White Int’l, Ltd., 106 USPQ2d at 1162 (citing Lens.com, Inc. v. 1-800 Contacts, Inc., 686 F.3d at 1382, 103 USPQ2d at 1676). None of these factors is dispositive. Lens.com, Inc. v. 1-800 Contacts, Inc., 686 F.3d at 1382, 103 USPQ2d at 1676.


TMEP 1202.06(a) Goods Must Have Utility to Others

Affixing a mark to an item that is transported in commerce does not in and of itself establish that the mark is used on “goods.” While a formal sale is not always necessary, items sold or transported in commerce are not “goods in trade” unless they have utility to others as the type of product named in the trademark application.

Example: Holiday greeting cards sent by a law firm to its clients are not “goods,” where applicant is merely sending its own cards through the mail as a holiday greeting, and the cards are not suitable for use by the recipients as a greeting card.

See Gay Toys, Inc. v. McDonald’s Corp., 585 F.2d 1067, 199 USPQ 722 (C.C.P.A. 1978) (plaster mockup of toy truck not goods in trade where there is no evidence the mockup is actually used as a toy); Paramount Pictures Corp. v. White, 31 USPQ2d 1768 (TTAB 1994), aff’d, 108 F.3d 1392 (Fed. Cir. 1997) (mark not registrable for games, where purported games are advertising flyers used to promote applicant’s services and have no real utilitarian function or purpose as games); In re Douglas Aircraft Co., 123 USPQ 271 (TTAB 1959) (books, pamphlets, and brochures that serve only to explain and advertise the goods in which applicant deals are not “goods”). Cf. In re Snap-On Tools Corp., 159 USPQ 254 (TTAB 1968) (ball point pens used to promote applicant’s tools are goods in trade, where they have a utilitarian function and purpose, and have been sold to applicant’s franchised dealers and transported in commerce under mark); In re United Merchants & Mfrs., Inc., 154 USPQ 625 (TTAB 1967) (calendar used to promote applicant’s plastic film constitutes goods in trade, where calendar has a utilitarian function and purpose in and of itself, and has been regularly distributed in commerce for several years).

In In re MGA Entm’t, Inc., 84 USPQ2d 1743, 1746 (TTAB 2007), the Board rejected applicant’s argument that trapezoidal cardboard boxes for toys, games, playthings, puzzles, and laptop play units have use beyond holding the goods at the point of sale, in that the laptop play-unit box functions as an ongoing carrying case for the unit, and the puzzle box may be used to store puzzle pieces when not in use. Finding the boxes to be merely point-of-sale containers for the primary goods and not separate goods in trade, the Board stated that “the mere fact that original boxes or packaging may be used to store products does not infuse such boxes or packaging with additional utility such that they constitute goods in trade,” and that there is neither any indication that the laptop computer boxes are labeled as a carrying case nor any evidence that applicant promotes the boxes as carrying cases or that children actually use them as carrying cases.

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TMEP 1202.06(b) Registration Must Be Refused if Trademark Not Used on Goods in Trade

If the specimen, identification of goods, or other evidence in the record indicate that the applicant uses the proposed mark only on items incidental to conducting its own business, as opposed to items intended to be used by others, the examining attorney must refuse registration on the Principal Register under §§1, 2, and 45 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1052, and 1127, on the ground that the proposed mark is not used on “goods in trade.”

If a mark is not used on “goods in trade,” it is not registrable on the Principal Register under §2(f) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(f), or on the Supplemental Register.

If some but not all of the items listed in the identification of goods are found not to be “goods in trade,” it is not necessary to refuse registration of the entire application, but the examining attorney must require that these items be deleted from the identification of goods before approving the mark for publication or registration.


TMEP 1202.06(c) “Goods in Trade” in §1(b), §44, and §66(a) Applications

In an intent-to-use application under §1(b) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1051(b), the question of whether a proposed mark is used on goods in trade usually does not arise until the applicant files an allegation of use (i.e., either an amendment to allege use under 15 U.S.C. §1051(c) or a statement of use under 15 U.S.C. §1051(d)) because this issue is based on the manner in which the mark is used. However, if the identification of goods in a §1(b) application includes items that do not appear to be goods in trade, the potential refusal should be brought to the applicant’s attention in the first Office action. This is done strictly as a courtesy. If information regarding this possible ground for refusal is not provided to the applicant before the allegation of use is filed, the USPTO is not precluded from refusing registration on this basis. If the record indicates that the mark will not be used on goods in trade, without the need to await consideration of the specimen(s), the examining attorney may issue the refusal prior to the filing of the allegation of use.

In an application under §44 or §66(a), where a specimen of use is not required prior to registration, it is appropriate for the examining attorney to issue a refusal based on the lack of use on goods in trade where the record clearly indicates that the mark will not be used on goods in trade. Cf. In re Right-On Co., 87 USPQ2d 1152, 1156-57 (TTAB 2008) (noting the propriety of and affirming an ornamentation refusal, which is otherwise typically specimen-based, in a §66(a) application).

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TMEP 1202.07 Marks That Identify Columns or Sections of Publications

TMEP 1202.07(a) Marks That Identify Columns or Sections of Printed Publications

A column, section, or supplement of a printed publication is normally not considered to be separate “goods” or “goods in trade,” unless it is sold, syndicated, or offered for syndication separate and apart from the larger publication in which it appears. In re Broad. Publ’ns, 135 USPQ 374 (TTAB 1962); Ex parte Meredith Publ’g, 109 USPQ 426 (Comm’r Pats. 1956). This is true even of a removable or separable “pullout” section of a newspaper or other publication. In Meredith, the issue was analyzed as follows:

The basic question is whether or not, under the circumstances of use, the section title is a name adopted and used by the publisher to identify his goods and distinguish them from those of others. The “goods” actually are magazines-not sections of magazines. When the magazine is purchased, the purchaser receives the sections whether he wants them or not, and it is doubtful that magazine readers ordinarily purchase a magazine merely to receive a section of it, or think of a magazine merely in terms of a section title. Sections of magazines are not in and of themselves articles of commerce other than as a part of an integrated whole; and we must therefore be concerned with whether a section title actually identifies and distinguishes, and if so, what it distinguishes. Under these circumstances it becomes necessary to ask: Was the mark adopted to identify a section of applicant’s magazine and distinguish it from sections of other publishers’ magazines, or was it adopted to distinguish one section of applicant’s magazine from the other sections of its magazine? Ordinarily, it is the latter (emphasis in original). 109 USPQ at 426.

The examining attorney may accept the statement of the applicant or applicant’s attorney that the column is syndicated. It is not necessary to set this forth in the identification of goods.


TMEP 1202.07(a)(i) Syndicated Columns and Sections

Columns or sections that are separately sold, syndicated, or offered for syndication do constitute goods in trade. A mark that identifies a column or section that is separately syndicated or offered for syndication is registrable on the Principal Register without resort to §2(f) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(f), if registration is not barred by other sections of the Act.


TMEP 1202.07(a)(ii) Non-Syndicated Columns and Sections

A column or section of a printed publication that is not separately sold, syndicated, or offered for syndication is not, in and of itself, considered to be separate goods in trade. Therefore, where the specimen, identification of goods, or other evidence in the record indicates that the mark identifies a column or section of a printed publication that is not separately sold, syndicated, or offered for syndication, the examining attorney should refuse registration on the Principal Register under §§1, 2, and 45 of the Trademark Act; 15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1052, and 1127, on the ground that the mark is not used on separate goods in trade.

Marks that identify non-syndicated columns or sections of printed publications are registrable on the Principal Register under §2(f) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(f), if the column or section is shown to have acquired separate recognition and distinctiveness. An applicant who seeks registration on the Principal Register bears the burden of establishing, through evidence of promotion, long use, advertising expenditures, and breadth of distribution or sales figures, that the public has come to recognize the proposed mark as an indicator of source.

The evidence of acquired distinctiveness must show that the column or section title is used and promoted to distinguish applicant’s column or section from the columns or sections of other publishers’ publications, rather than merely to distinguish applicant’s column or section from other columns or sections of applicant’s publication. Metro Publ’g v. San Jose Mercury News, 987 F.2d 637, 25 USPQ2d 2049 (9th Cir. 1993); In re Broad. Publ’ns, 135 USPQ 374 (TTAB 1962).

The amount of evidence needed to establish distinctiveness must be evaluated by the examining attorney on a case-by-case basis, in light of the type of column or section. If the mark identifies a removable or pull-out section, a lesser degree of evidence might be required to establish distinctiveness. Of course, the amount of evidence needed to establish distinctiveness in any particular case will also vary depending on the strength or weakness of the mark. See TMEP §§1212–1212.06(e)(iv) regarding evidence of distinctiveness.

Marks that identify non-syndicated columns or sections of printed publications, but have not yet acquired distinctiveness under §2(f) of the Act, are registrable on the Supplemental Register in applications under §1 or §44 of the Trademark Act, if registration is not barred by other sections of the Act. Ex parte Meredith Publ’g, 109 USPQ 426 (Comm’r Pats. 1956).

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TMEP 1202.07(a)(iii) Marks That Identify Columns and Sections of Printed Publications in §1(b), §44, and §66(a) Applications

Since a refusal to register a mark that identifies a column or section of a printed publication is based on whether the column or section is separately sold, syndicated, or offered for syndication, the issue ordinarily does not arise in an intent-to-use application under §1(b) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1051(b), until the applicant has filed an allegation of use (i.e., either an amendment to allege use under 15 U.S.C. §1051(c) or a statement of use under 15 U.S.C. §1051(d)). However, if the identification of goods suggests that the mark is intended to be used to identify a column or section of a printed publication that is not separately sold, syndicated, or offered for syndication, the potential refusal on the ground that the proposed mark is not used on separate goods in trade should be brought to the applicant’s attention in the first Office action. This is done strictly as a courtesy. If information regarding this possible ground for refusal is not provided to the applicant prior to the filing of the allegation of use, the USPTO is not precluded from refusing registration on this basis. In cases where the record indicates that the mark will identify a column or section of a printed publication that is not separately sold or syndicated, the examining attorney may make the refusal prior to the filing of the allegation of use.

In an application under §44 or §66(a), where a specimen of use is not required prior to registration, it is appropriate for the examining attorney to refuse registration because the mark is not used on goods in trade where the record indicates that the mark will identify a column or section of a printed publication that is not separately sold, syndicated, or offered for syndication. Cf. In re Right-On Co., 87 USPQ2d 1152, 1156-57 (TTAB 2008) (noting the propriety of and affirming an ornamentation refusal, which is otherwise typically specimen-based, in a §66(a) application).


TMEP 1202.07(b) Marks That Identify Columns and Sections of Online Publications

An online publication is considered a service rather than a product. Therefore, refusal of registration on the ground that the proposed mark is not used on goods in trade is inappropriate. Unlike a printed column or section, an online column or section can be accessed directly and can exist independent of any single publication. See Ludden v. Metro Weekly, 8 F. Supp. 2d 7, 14, 47 USPQ2d 1087, 1093 (D.D.C. 1998). Therefore, a mark that identifies an online column or section is registrable on the Principal Register without resort to §2(f) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(f), if registration is not barred by other sections of the Act.


TMEP 1202.08 Title of a Single Creative Work

The title, or a portion of a title, of a single creative work must be refused registration under §§1, 2, and 45 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1052, and 1127, unless the title has been used on a series of creative works. The title of a single creative work is not registrable on either the Principal or Supplemental Register. Herbko Int’l, Inc. v. Kappa Books, Inc., 308 F.3d 1156, 1162, 64 USPQ2d 1375, 1378 (Fed. Cir. 2002) ("the title of a single book cannot serve as a source identifier"); In re Cooper, 254 F.2d 611, 615-16, 117 USPQ 396, 400 (C.C.P.A. 1958), cert. denied, 358 U.S. 840, 119 USPQ 501 (1958) ("A book title ... identifies a specific literary work ... and is not associated in the public mind with the publisher, printer or bookseller...."); In re Posthuma, 45 USPQ2d 2011 (TTAB 1998) (holding the title of a live theater production unregistrable); In re Hal Leonard Publ’g Corp., 15 USPQ2d 1574 (TTAB 1990) (holding INSTANT KEYBOARD, as used on music instruction books, unregistrable as the title of a single work); In re Appleby, 159 USPQ 126 (TTAB 1968) (holding the title of single phonograph record, as distinguished from a series, does not function as mark).

See TMEP §1301.02(d) regarding the titles of radio and television programs.

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TMEP 1202.08(a) What Constitutes a Single Creative Work

Single creative works include works in which the content does not change, whether that work is in printed, recorded, or electronic form. Materials such as books, sound recordings, downloadable songs, downloadable ring tones, videocassettes, DVDs, audio CDs, and films are usually single creative works. Creative works that are serialized, i.e., the mark identifies the entire work but the work is issued in sections or chapters, are still considered single creative works. A theatrical performance is also a single creative work, because the content of the play, musical, opera, or similar production does not significantly change from one performance to another. In re Posthuma, 45 USPQ2d 2011, 2014 (TTAB 1998). A cornerstone was considered a single creative work in an application for registration of FREEDOM STONE for “building stones used as landmarks or cornerstones,” where the record showed that the proposed mark would identify only one building stone used as a landmark or cornerstone, to serve as the cornerstone for the Freedom Tower that is to be erected at the World Trade Center site in New York City. In re Innovative Cos., LLC., 88 USPQ2d 1095, 1102 (TTAB 2008).


TMEP 1202.08(b) What Does Not Constitute a Single Creative Work

Generally, any creative work will not be considered a single creative work if evidence exists that it is part of a series (e.g., the work is labeled “volume 1,” “part 1,” or “book 1”) or is a type of work in which the content changes with each issue or performance. For example, single creative works do not include periodically issued publications, such as magazines, newsletters, comic books, comic strips, guide books, and printed classroom materials, because the content of these works changes with each issue.

A book with a second or subsequent edition in which the content changes significantly is not regarded as a single creative work. For example, a statement on the jacket cover that a cookbook is a “new and revised” version would indicate that it includes significant revisions. However, a new edition issued to correct typographical errors or that makes only minor changes is not considered to be a new work. Live performances by musical bands, television and radio series, and educational seminars are presumed to change with each presentation and, therefore, are not single creative works.

Computer software, computer games, coloring books, puzzle books, and activity books are not treated as single creative works.

The examining attorney must determine whether changes in content are significant based on any evidence in the application or record. The examining attorney may conduct additional research using the applicant’s website, Internet search engines, or Nexis® databases (with a note in the "Notes-to-the-File" section of the record, if appropriate). In addition, the examining attorney may issue a request for information under 37 C.F.R. §2.61(b).


TMEP 1202.08(c) Complete Title of the Work – Evidence of a Series

The name of a series of books or other creative works may be registrable if it serves to identify and distinguish the source of the goods. An applicant must submit evidence that the title is used on at least two different creative works. In re Arnold, 105 USPQ2d 1953, 1956 (TTAB 2013). A series is not established when only the format of the work is changed, that is, the same title used on a printed version of a book and a recorded version does not establish a series. See Mattel Inc. v. Brainy Baby Co., 101 USPQ2d 1140, 1143 (TTAB 2011) (finding that a program recorded on both a VHS tape and a DVD were the same creative work, and that the addition of minor enhancements in the DVD did not transform this single work into a series). Likewise, use of the title on unabridged and abridged versions of the same work, or on collateral goods such as posters, mugs, bags, or t-shirts does not establish a series.

For example, if an application for the mark HOW TO RETIRE EARLY for “books” is refused because the specimen shows the mark used on a single creative work, the applicant may submit copies of other book covers showing use of the mark HOW TO RETIRE EARLY and any additional evidence to establish that the book is published each year with different content. It is not necessary to show that the mark was used on the other works in the series prior to the filing date of the application or the allegation of use. However, evidence that the applicant intends to use the mark on a series is insufficient.


TMEP 1202.08(d) Portion of a Title of the Work

A portion of the title of any single creative work is registrable only if the applicant can show that the portion of the title meets the following criteria:

(1) It creates a separate commercial impression apart from the complete title;

(2) It is used on series of works; and

(3) It is promoted or recognized as a mark for the series.

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TMEP 1202.08(d)(i) Mark Must Create a Separate Commercial Impression

When registration is sought for a portion of a title, the mark must be used as a separable element on the specimen. The examining attorney should consider the size, type font, color, and any separation between the mark and the rest of the title when making this determination. In re Scholastic Inc., 23 USPQ2d 1774, 1777 (TTAB 1992) (“[T]he words THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS are prominently displayed on the books' covers, and are in a larger, bolder style of type and different color from the remainder of each title. Moreover, the words appear on a separate line above the remainder of each title.”). If the portion of the title sought to be registered is not separable, the examining attorney must refuse registration on the ground that the mark is not a substantially exact representation of the mark as it appears on the specimen. See TMEP §807.12(d).


TMEP 1202.08(d)(ii) Establishing a Series When the Mark is a Portion of the Title

An applicant may establish that the portion of the title of a creative work is used on a series by submitting more than one book cover or CD cover with the mark used in all the titles. For example, if the mark on the drawing is “THE LITTLE ENGINE” and on the book it appears as “THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT WENT TO THE FAIR,” registration should be refused because the mark is a portion of a title of a single work. To establish use on a series, the applicant may submit additional book covers showing use of, e.g., “THE LITTLE ENGINE GOES TO SCHOOL,” and “THE LITTLE ENGINE AND THE BIG RED CABOOSE.”


TMEP 1202.08(d)(iii) Evidence that the Portion of the Title is Promoted or Recognized as a Mark

When a mark is used merely as a portion of the title of a creative work, the applicant has a heavier burden in establishing that the portion for which registration is sought serves as a trademark for the goods. The mere use of the same words in more than one book title is insufficient to establish the words as a mark for a series. The applicant must show that the public perceives the portion sought to be registered as a mark for the series. In re Scholastic Inc., 23 USPQ2d 1774, 1777 (TTAB 1992) (holding THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS used as a portion of the book titles in “THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS AT THE WATERWORKS” and “THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS INSIDE THE EARTH,” functions as a mark for a series, because the record contained evidence of repeated use of the designation displayed prominently on book covers, as well as evidence that applicant promoted THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS as a series title, that others used the designation in book reviews to refer to a series of books, and that purchasers recognized the designation as indicating the source of a series of books).


TMEP 1202.08(e) Identification of Goods/Services

Identification Need Not Reflect Use on a Series. The identification of goods/services need not reflect that the applicant is using the title on a series of works (either written or recorded). It is sufficient that the record contains the evidence of a series.

Creative Works in a List of Goods or Services. A refusal of registration on the ground that the mark merely identifies the title of a single creative work can be made regardless of whether the creative work is the sole item in the identification of goods/services or is listed with other items. If the record contains information, or if the examining attorney learns from another source, that the mark identifies the title of a single creative work, the examining attorney must issue a partial refusal as to the relevant goods/services. A partial refusal is a refusal that applies only to certain goods/services, or to certain classes. See TMEP §718.02(a).

Example: An application for “newspapers, books in the field of finance, pencils, and coloring books” would be partially refused if the examining attorney determined, either from the application or from another source, that the mark identified the title of the “books in the field of finance.” The use of the same mark on other non-creative matter such as the pencils and coloring books does not overcome the refusal.

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TMEP 1202.08(f) Title of a Single Work in §1(b), §44, and §66(a) Applications

The issue of whether a proposed mark is the title of a single creative work usually is tied to use of the mark, as evidenced by the specimen. Therefore, generally, no refusal will be issued in an intent-to-use application under §1(b) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1051(b), until the applicant has submitted a specimen with an allegation of use under §1(c) or §1(d) of the Act, 15 U.S.C. §1051(c) or (d).

However, in a §1(b) application for which no specimen has been submitted, if the examining attorney anticipates that a refusal will be made on the ground that the proposed mark is the title of a single creative work, the potential refusal should be brought to the applicant’s attention in the first action issued by the USPTO. This is done strictly as a courtesy. If information regarding this possible ground for refusal is not provided to the applicant before the allegation of use is filed, the USPTO is not precluded from refusing registration on this basis. In cases where the record indicates that the mark constitutes the title of a single work, the examining attorney may make the refusal prior to the filing of the allegation of use.

In an application under §44 or §66(a), where a specimen of use is not required prior to registration, it is appropriate for examining attorneys to issue the refusal where the record indicates that the mark will identify the title of a single work. Cf. In re Right-On Co., 87 USPQ2d 1152, 1156-57 (TTAB 2008) (noting the propriety of and affirming an ornamentation refusal, which is otherwise typically specimen based, in a §66(a) application).


TMEP 1202.09 Names of Artists and Authors

TMEP 1202.09(a) Names and Pseudonyms of Authors and Performing Artists

Any mark consisting of the name of an author used on a written work, or the name of a performing artist on a sound recording, must be refused registration under §§1, 2, and 45 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1052, and 1127, if the mark is used solely to identify the writer or the artist. See In re Polar Music Int’l AB, 714 F.2d 1567, 1572, 221 USPQ 315, 318 (Fed. Cir. 1983); In re Arnold, 105 USPQ2d 1953, 1957-60 (TTAB 2013); In re First Draft, Inc. 76 USPQ2d 1183, 1190 (TTAB 2005); In re Peter Spirer, 225 USPQ 693, 695 (TTAB 1985). Written works include books or columns, and may be presented in print, recorded, or electronic form. Likewise, sound recordings may be presented in recorded or electronic form.

However, the name of the author or performer may be registered if:

   (1) It is used on a series of written or recorded works; and

   (2) The application contains sufficient evidence that the name identifies the source of the series and not merely the writer of the written work or the name of the performing artist.

In re Arnold, 105 USPQ2d at 1958.

If the applicant cannot show a series, or can show that there is a series but cannot show that the name identifies the source of the series, the mark may be registered on the Supplemental Register in an application under §1 or §44 of the Trademark Act. These types of marks may not be registered on the Principal Register under §2(f).

See also TMEP §1301.02(b) regarding personal names as service marks.


TMEP 1202.09(a)(i) Author or Performer’s Name – Evidence of a Series

In an application seeking registration of an author’s or performer’s name, the applicant must provide evidence that the mark appears on at least two different works. Such evidence could include copies of multiple book covers or multiple CD covers that show the name sought to be registered. A showing of the same work available in different media, i.e., the same work in both printed and/or recorded or downloadable format, does not establish a series.

The identification of goods need not reflect that the applicant is using the name on a series of works (either written or recorded). It is sufficient that the record contains the evidence of a series.

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TMEP 1202.09(a)(ii) Evidence that the Name is a Source Identifier

The use of the author’s or performer’s name on a series of works does not, in itself, establish that the name functions as a mark. The record must also show that the name serves as more than a designation of the writer or performer, i.e., that it also serves to identify the source of the series. See In re Arnold, 105 USPQ2d 1953, 1959-60 (TTAB 2013) (holding BLATANCY fails to function as a mark because it merely identifies the name of a performer featured on applicant’s musical recordings, and finding the evidence relating to control over the mark and the nature and quality of the goods conflicting and of uncertain meaning); In re First Draft, 76 USPQ2d 1183, 1191 (TTAB 2005) (holding pseudonym FERN MICHAELS identifies only the author and does not function as a mark to identify and distinguish a series of fictional books because the “evidence of promotion" was "indirect and rather scant,” despite applicant’s showing that the name had been used as an author's name for 30 years; that 67 separate books had been published under the name, and approximately 6 million copies had been sold; that the book jackets listed the titles of other works by Fern Michaels and promoted her as a bestselling author; that the author had been inducted into the New Jersey Literary Hall of Fame; and that there was a www.fernmichaels.com website); In re Chicago Reader Inc., 12 USPQ2d 1079, 1080 (TTAB 1989) (holding CECIL ADAMS, used on the specimen as a byline and as part of the author’s address appearing at the end of a column, merely identifies the author and does not function as a trademark for a newspaper column).

A showing that the name functions as a source identifier may be made by submitting evidence of either: (1) promotion and recognition of the name as a source indicator for the series (see TMEP §1202.09(a)(ii)(A)); or (2) the author’s or performer’s control over the name and quality of his or her works in the series (see TMEP §1202.09(a)(ii)(B)). In re Arnold, 105 USPQ2d at 1958.


TMEP 1202.09(a)(ii)(A) Promotion and Recognition of the Name

To show that the name of an author or performing artist has been promoted and is recognized as indicating the source of a series of written works, the applicant could submit copies of advertising that promotes the name as the source of a series, copies of third-party reviews showing others’ use of the name to refer to a series of works, or evidence showing the name used on a web site associated with the series of works. See In re First Draft, 76 USPQ2d 1183, 1191 (TTAB 2005), citing In re Scholastic Inc., 23 USPQ2d 1774, 1777 (TTAB 1992) (holding THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS functions as a mark for a series of books, where the record contained evidence of use of the designation displayed prominently on many different book covers, as well as evidence that applicant promoted the term as a series title, that others used the designation in book reviews to refer to a series of books, and that purchasers recognized the designation as indicating the source of a series of books).


TMEP 1202.09(a)(ii)(B) Control over the Nature and Quality of the Goods

Alternatively, an applicant may show that the name of an author or performing artist functions as a source indicator by submitting documentary evidence that the author/performer controls the quality of his or her distributed works and controls the use of his or her name. Such evidence would include license agreements and other documentary or contractual evidence. See In re Polar Music Int’l AB, 714 F.2d 1567, 1572, 221 USPQ 315, 318 (Fed. Cir. 1983) (holding the name of the musical group ABBA functions as a mark for sound recordings where a license agreement showed that the owner of the mark, ABBA, controlled the quality of the goods, and other contractual evidence showed that the owner also controlled the use of the name of the group).

In In re First Draft, 76 USPQ2d 1183, 1191 (TTAB 2005), the Board found that the applicant failed to meet the Polar Music test, noting that:

   [W]e have neither any evidence bearing on [the question of applicant’s control over the quality of the goods] nor even any representations by counsel regarding such matters. This is in stark contrast to Polar Music, wherein there was detailed information and documentary (i.e., contractual) evidence regarding the relationship between the performing group ABBA and its “corporate entity,” as well as evidence of the control such corporation maintained in dealings with a manufacturer and seller of its recordings in the United States.

If the applicant maintains control over the quality of the goods because the goods are published or recorded directly under the applicant’s control, the applicant may submit a verified statement that “the applicant publishes or produces the goods and controls their quality.” In re Arnold, 105 USPQ2d 1953, 1958 (TTAB 2013).  

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TMEP 1202.09(a)(iii) Names of Authors and Performing Artists in §1(b), §44, and §66(a) Applications

The issue of whether a proposed mark identifies only an author or performing artist is usually tied to use of the mark, as evidenced by the specimen. Therefore, generally, no refusal will be issued in an intent-to-use application under §1(b) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1051(b), until the applicant has submitted specimen(s) with an allegation of use under §1(c) or §1(d) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1051(c) or (d).

In a §1(b) application for which no specimen has been submitted, if the examining attorney anticipates that a refusal will be made on the ground that the proposed mark identifies only an author or performing artist, the potential refusal should be brought to the applicant’s attention in the first action issued by the USPTO. This is done strictly as a courtesy. If information regarding this possible ground for refusal is not provided to the applicant before the allegation of use is filed, the USPTO is not precluded from refusing registration on this basis. In cases where the record indicates that the mark identifies only an author or performing artist, the examining attorney may make the refusal prior to the filing of the allegation of use.

In an application under §44 or §66(a), where a specimen of use is not required prior to registration, it is appropriate for examining attorneys to issue the refusal where the record, even without a specimen, reflects that the proposed mark identifies only an author or performing artist. Cf. In re Right-On Co., 87 USPQ2d 1152, 1156-57 (TTAB 2008) (noting the propriety of and affirming an ornamentation refusal, which is otherwise typically specimen based, in a §66(a) application).


TMEP 1202.09(b) Names of Artists Used on Original Works of Art

An artist’s name or pseudonym affixed to an original work of art may be registered on the Principal Register without a showing that the name identifies a series. Original works of art includes paintings, murals, sculptures, statues, jewelry, and like works that the artist personally creates. In In re Wood, 217 USPQ 1345, 1350 (TTAB 1983), the Board held that the pseudonym YSABELLA affixed to an original work of art functioned as a mark. The Board has expressly limited this holding to cases involving original works of art, stating in Wood that “[l]est we be accused of painting with too broad a brush, we hold only that an artist’s name affixed to an original work of art may be registered as a mark and that here applicant’s name, as evidenced by some of the specimens of record [the signature of the artist on a work of art], functions as a trademark for the goods set forth in the application.” In In re First Draft, 76 USPQ2d 1183, 1190 (TTAB 2005), the Board again stated that “Wood is limited in its application to cases involving original works of art and there is nothing to indicate that the panel deciding that case considered novels to be encompassed by the phrase original works of art.”


TMEP 1202.10 Names and Designs of Characters in Creative Works

Marks that merely identify a character in a creative work, whether used in a series or in a single work, are not registrable. In re Scholastic Inc., 223 USPQ 431, 431 (TTAB 1984) (holding THE LITTLES, used in the title of each book in a series of children's books, does not function as a mark where it merely identifies the main characters in the books). Cf. In re Caserta, 46 USPQ2d 1088, 1090-91 (TTAB 1998) (holding FURR-BALL FURCANIA, used as the principal character in a single children's book, does not function as a mark even though the character's name appeared on the cover and every page of the story); In re Frederick Warne & Co., 218 USPQ 345, 347-48 (TTAB 1983) (holding an illustration of a frog used on the cover of a single book served only to depict the main character in the book and did not function as a trademark).

To overcome a refusal of registration on the ground that the proposed mark merely identifies a character in a creative work, the applicant may submit evidence that the character name does not merely identify the character in the work. For example, the applicant may submit evidence showing use of the character name as a mark on the spine of the book, or on displays associated with the goods, in a manner that would be perceived as a mark.

A refusal of registration on the ground that the mark merely identifies a character in a creative work can be made regardless of whether the creative work is the sole item in the identification of goods/services or is listed with other items. If the record contains information or if the examining attorney learns from another source that the mark identifies a character in a creative work and there are multiple items in the identification, the examining attorney should issue a partial refusal as to the relevant goods/services. A partial refusal is a refusal that applies only to certain goods/services, or to certain classes. See TMEP §718.02(a).

Example: An application for “children’s books, pencils, and coloring books” would be partially refused if the examining attorney determined, either from the application or from another source, that the mark identified a character in the children’s books. The use of the same mark on other non-creative matter such as the pencils and coloring books does not overcome the refusal.

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TMEP 1202.10(a) Names and Designs of Characters in Creative Works in §1(b), §44, or §66(a) Applications

The issue of whether a proposed mark identifies only the name or design of a particular character is tied to use of the mark, as evidenced by the specimen. Therefore, unless the record, even without a specimen, reflects that the proposed mark identifies only the name or design of a character, generally no refusal will be issued in an intent-to-use application under §1(b) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1051(b), until the applicant has submitted specimen(s) with an allegation of use under §1(c) or §1(d) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1051(c) or (d). However, in a §1(b) application for which no specimen has been submitted, if the examining attorney anticipates that a refusal will be made on the ground that the proposed mark identifies only a particular character, the potential refusal should be brought to the applicant’s attention in the first action issued by the USPTO. This is done strictly as a courtesy. If information regarding this possible ground for refusal is not provided to the applicant before the allegation of use is filed, the USPTO is not precluded from refusing registration on this basis. In cases where the record indicates that the mark identifies only the name or design of a character, the examining attorney may make the refusal prior to the filing of the allegation of use.

In an application under §44 or §66(a), where a specimen of use is not required prior to registration, it is appropriate for examining attorneys to issue the refusal where the record indicates that the mark will identify only the name or design of a particular character. Cf. In re Right-On Co., 87 USPQ2d 1152, 1156-57 (TTAB 2008) (noting the propriety of and affirming an ornamentation refusal, which is otherwise typically specimen-based, in a §66(a) application).

See TMEP §1301.02(b) regarding names of characters or personal names as service marks.


TMEP 1202.11 Background Designs and Shapes

Common geometric shapes and background designs that are not sufficiently distinctive to create a commercial impression separate from the word and/or design marks with which they are used, are not regarded as indicators of origin absent evidence of distinctiveness of the design alone. See In re Benetton Group S.p.A., 48 USPQ2d 1214, 1215-16 (TTAB 1998); In re Anton/Bauer, Inc., 7 USPQ2d 1380, 1381 (TTAB 1988); In re Wendy’s Int’l, Inc., 227 USPQ 884, 885 (TTAB 1985); In re Haggar Co., 217 USPQ 81, 83-84 (TTAB 1982). As stated in In re Chem. Dynamics, Inc., 839 F.2d 1569, 1570, 5 USPQ2d 1828, 1829 (Fed. Cir. 1988) (citations omitted), “‘[a] background design which is always used in connection with word marks must create a commercial impression on buyers separate and apart from the word marks for the design to be protectible as a separate mark.’ In deciding whether the design background of a word mark may be separately registered, the essential question is whether or not the background material is or is not inherently distinctive…. If the background portion is inherently distinctive, no proof of secondary meaning need be introduced; if not, such proof is essential.”

An applicant may respond to a refusal to register an application for a common geometric shape or background design by submitting evidence that the subject matter has acquired distinctiveness under §2(f) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(f). The examining attorney should scrutinize any submission that asserts distinctiveness solely on the basis of a statement of substantially exclusive and continuous use for five years to determine whether it truly establishes that the subject matter is perceived as a trademark by the purchasing public. The examining attorney may continue to refuse registration if he or she believes that the applicant’s assertion does not establish that the matter is perceived as a trademark. The applicant may submit additional evidence to establish distinctiveness. See TMEP §§1212–1212.10.

In the following cases, the evidence of distinctiveness was insufficient: Benetton, 48 USPQ2d at 1217 (holding green rectangular background design not inherently distinctive; evidence of acquired distinctiveness insufficient); Anton/Bauer, 7 USPQ2d at 1383 (holding parallelogram designs used as background for word marks not inherently distinctive; evidence of record insufficient to establish acquired distinctiveness pursuant to §2(f)); In re Kerr-McGee Corp., 190 USPQ 204, 207 (TTAB 1976) (affirming refusals to register escutcheon design used as a frame or border for words, under §2(f)).

In the following cases, the evidence of distinctiveness was sufficient: In re Schenectady Varnish Co., 280 F.2d 169, 171, 126 USPQ 395, 397 (C.C.P.A. 1960) (finding evidence of record sufficient to show acquired distinctiveness of the design alone as a trademark for synthetic resins where use of applicant’s design of a cloud and a lightning flash was always used as a background for the word “SCHENECTADY”); In re Raytheon Co., 202 USPQ 317, 319-20 (TTAB 1979) (finding light-colored oval within black rectangular carrier not inherently distinctive; evidence of record sufficient to establish acquired distinctiveness).

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TMEP 1202.12 Varietal and Cultivar Names (Examination of Applications for Seeds and Plants)

Varietal or cultivar names are designations given to cultivated varieties or subspecies of live plants or agricultural seeds. They amount to the generic name of the plant or seed by which such variety is known to the public. These names can consist of a numeric or alphanumeric code or can be a “fancy” (arbitrary) name. The terms “varietal” and “cultivar” may have slight semantic differences but pose indistinguishable issues and are treated identically for trademark purposes.

Subspecies are types of a particular species of plant or seed that are members of a particular genus. For example, all maple trees are in the genus Acer. The sugar maple species is known as Acer saccharum, while the red maple species is called Acer rubrum. In turn, these species have been subdivided into various cultivated varieties that are developed commercially and given varietal or cultivar names that are known to the public.

A varietal or cultivar name is used in a plant patent to identify the variety. Thus, even if the name was originally arbitrary, it “describe[s] to the public a [plant] of a particular sort, not a [plant] from a particular [source].” Dixie Rose Nursery v. Coe, 131 F.2d 446, 447 55 USPQ 315, 316 (D.C. Cir. 1942), cert. denied 318 U.S. 782, 57 USPQ 568 (1943). It is against public policy for any one supplier to retain exclusivity in a patented variety of plant, or the name of a variety, once its patent expires. Id.

Market realities and lack of laws concerning the registration of varietal and cultivar names have created a number of problems in this area. Some varietal names are not attractive or easy to remember by the public. As a result, many arbitrary terms are used as varietal names. Problems arise when trademark registration is sought for varietal names, when arbitrary varietal names are thought of as being trademarks by the public, and when terms intended as trademarks by plant breeders become generic through public use. These problems make this a difficult area for the examining attorney in terms of gathering credible evidence and knowing when to make refusals.

Whenever an application is filed to register a mark containing wording for live plants, agricultural seeds, fresh fruits, or fresh vegetables, the examining attorney must inquire of the applicant whether the term has ever been used as a varietal name, and whether such name has been used in connection with a plant patent, a utility patent, or a certificate for plant variety protection. See 37 C.F.R. §2.61(b). The examining attorney must also undertake an independent investigation of any evidence that would support a refusal to register, using sources of evidence that are appropriate for the particular goods specified in the application (e.g., laboratories and repositories of the United States Department of Agriculture, plant patent information from the USPTO, a variety name search of plants certified under the Plant Variety Protection Act listed at www.ars-grin.gov/npgs/searchgrin.html).

If the examining attorney determines that wording sought to be registered as a mark for live plants, agricultural seeds, fresh fruits, or fresh vegetables comprises a varietal or cultivar name, then the examining attorney must refuse registration, or require a disclaimer, on the ground that the matter is the varietal name of the goods and does not function as a trademark under §§1, 2, and 45 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1052, and 1127. See In re Pennington Seed, Inc., 466 F.3d 1053, 1057-58, 80 USPQ2d 1758, 1761-62 (Fed. Cir. 2006) (upholding the USPTO’s long-standing precedent and policy of treating varietal names as generic, and affirming refusal to register REBEL for grass seed because it is the varietal name for the grass seed as evidenced by its designation as the varietal name in applicant’s plant variety protection certificate); Dixie Rose Nursery v. Coe, 131 F.2d 446, 447 55 USPQ 315, 316 (D.C. Cir. 1942), cert. denied 318 U.S. 782, 57 USPQ 568 (1943) (holding TEXAS CENTENNIAL, although originally arbitrary, has become the varietal name for a type of rose; In re Hilltop Orchards & Nurseries, Inc., 206 USPQ 1034, 1035 (TTAB 1979) (affirming the refusal to register COMMANDER YORK for apple trees because it is the varietal name for the trees as evidences by use in applicant’s catalogue); In re Farmer Seed & Nursery Co., 137 USPQ 231, 231-32 (TTAB 1963) (upholding the refusal to register CHIEF BEMIDJI as a trademark because it is the varietal name for a strawberry plant and noting that large expenditures of money does not elevate a mark to a trademark; In re Cohn Bodger & Sons Co., 122 USPQ 345, 346 (TTAB 1959) (holding BLUE LUSTRE merely a varietal name for petunia seeds as evidenced by applicant’s catalogs).

Likewise, if the mark identifies the prominent portion of a varietal name, it must be refused. In re Delta & Pine Land Co., 26 USPQ2d 1157 (TTAB 1993) (affirming the refusal to register DELTAPINE, which was a portion of the varietal names Deltapine 50, Deltapine 20, Deltapine 105 and Deltapine 506).

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TMEP 1202.13 Scent, Fragrance, or Flavor

Scent. The scent of a product may be registrable if it is used in a nonfunctional manner. See In re Clarke, 17 USPQ2d 1238, 1239-40 (TTAB 1990) (holding that the scent of plumeria blossoms functioned as a mark for “sewing thread and embroidery yarn"). Scents that serve a utilitarian purpose, such as the scent of perfume or an air freshener, are functional and not registrable. See TMEP §§1202.02(a)-1202.02(a)(viii) regarding functionality. When a scent is not functional, it may be registered on the Principal Register under §2(f), or on the Supplemental Register if appropriate. The amount of evidence required to establish that a scent or fragrance functions as a mark is substantial. See In re Pohl-Boskamp GmbH & Co., 106 USPQ2d 1042, 1052 (TTAB 2013) (finding that peppermint scent mark for “pharmaceutical formulations of nitroglycerin” failed to function as a mark and noting the insufficiency of applicant’s evidence of acquired distinctiveness in light of evidence that the use of peppermint scent by others in the relevant marketplace (i.e., pharmaceuticals) tends to show that such scents are more likely to be perceived as attributes of ingestible products than as indicators of source)); cf. In re Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., 774 F.2d 1116, 227 USPQ 417 (Fed. Cir. 1985) (requiring concrete evidence that the mark is perceived as a mark to establish distinctiveness).

Flavor. Just as with a scent or fragrance, a flavor can never be inherently distinctive because it is generally seen as a characteristic of the goods. In re Pohl-Boskamp GmbH & Co., 106 USPQ2d at 1048 (finding that peppermint flavor mark for “pharmaceutical formulations of nitroglycerin” failed to function as a mark); In re N.V. Organon, 79 USPQ2d 1639 (TTAB 2006) (affirming refusal to register “an orange flavor” for “pharmaceuticals for human use, namely, antidepressants in quick-dissolving tablets and pills,” on the grounds that the proposed mark was functional under §2(e)(5) and failed to function as a mark within the meaning of §§1, 2, and 45 of the Trademark Act). The Board has observed that it is unclear how a flavor could function as a source indicator because flavor or taste generally performs a utilitarian function and consumers generally have no access to a product’s flavor or taste prior to purchase. Id. at 1650-51. Thus, an application to register a flavor “requires a substantial showing of acquired distinctiveness.” In re Pohl-Boskamp GmbH & Co., 106 USPQ2d at 1051-52 (noting the insufficiency of applicant’s evidence of acquired distinctiveness in light of evidence that the use of peppermint flavor by others in the relevant marketplace tends to show that such flavors are more likely to be perceived as attributes of ingestible products than as indicators of source); In re N.V. Organon, 79 USPQ2d at 1650.

See TMEP §807.09 regarding the requirements for submitting applications for non-visual marks.


TMEP 1202.14 Holograms

A hologram used in varying forms does not function as a mark in the absence of evidence that consumers would perceive it as a trademark. See In re Upper Deck Co., 59 USPQ2d 1688, 1692-93 (TTAB 2001), where the Board held that a hologram used on trading cards in varying shapes, sizes, and positions did not function as a mark, because the record showed that other companies used holograms on trading cards and other products as anti-counterfeiting devices, and there was no evidence that the public would perceive applicant’s hologram as an indicator of source. The Board noted that “the common use of holograms for non-trademark purposes means that consumers would be less likely to perceive applicant’s uses of holograms as trademarks.” 59 USPQ2d at 1693.

Therefore, in the absence of evidence of consumer recognition as a mark, the examining attorney should refuse registration on the ground that the hologram does not function as a mark, under §§1, 2, and 45 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1052, and 1127.

Generally, if a hologram has two or more views, the examining attorney should also refuse registration under §§1 and 45 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1051 and 1127, on the ground that the application seeks registration of more than one mark. In re Upper Deck, 59 USPQ2d at 1690-91. See TMEP §807.01.

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TMEP 1202.15 Sound Marks

A sound mark identifies and distinguishes a product or service through audio rather than visual means. Sound marks function as source indicators when they “assume a definitive shape or arrangement” and “create in the hearer’s mind an association of the sound” with a good or service. In re Gen. Electric Broad. Co., 199 USPQ 560, 563 (TTAB 1978). Thus, sounds may be registered on the Principal Register when they are “arbitrary, unique or distinctive and can be used in a manner so as to attach to the mind of the listener and be awakened on later hearing in a way that would indicate for the listener that a particular product or service was coming from a particular, even if anonymous, source.” In re Vertex Grp. LLC, 89 USPQ2d 1694, 1700 (TTAB 2009). Examples of sound marks include: (1) a series of tones or musical notes, with or without words; and (2) wording accompanied by music.

There is, however, a difference between unique, different, or distinctive sounds and those that resemble or imitate “commonplace” sounds or those to which listeners have been exposed under different circumstances, which must be shown to have acquired distinctiveness. Gen. Electric Broad. 199 USPQ at 563 (TTAB 1978). Examples of "commonplace" sound marks include goods that make the sound in their normal course of operation (e.g., alarm clocks, appliances that include audible alarms or signals, telephones, and personal security alarms). Therefore, sound marks for goods that make the sound in their normal course of operation can be registered only on a showing of acquired distinctiveness under §2(f). In re Powermat Inc., 105 USPQ2d 1789, 1793 (TTAB 2013) (finding battery chargers that emit “chirp” sounds slightly increasing and decreasing in pitch not inherently distinctive, and applicant’s advertising only relevant in a showing of acquired distinctiveness); Nextel Commc'ns, Inc. v. Motorola, Inc., 91 USPQ2d 1393 (TTAB 2009) (holding cellular telephones that emit a “chirp” sound fall into the category of goods that make the sound in their normal course of operation); Vertex, 89 USPQ2d at 1700, 1702 (holding personal security alarm clock products that emit a sound pulse fall into the category of goods that make sound in the normal course of operation).

See TMEP §807.09 regarding the requirements for submitting applications for sound marks and §904.03(f) regarding specimens for sound marks.

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TMEP 1202.16 Model or Grade Designations

Model designations appear in connection with a wide variety of products, such as retaining rings, hand tools, and pens, to identify a specific style, type, or design of a product within a particular line of goods. See In re Petersen Mfg. Co., 229 USPQ 466 (TTAB 1986) (noting that the following alphanumeric designations served as model numbers on the specimens, but finding the evidence of acquired distinctiveness under §2(f) sufficient for registration: 18R for a C clamp; 6LN for a locking plier with elongated jaw; 9LN for a locking plier with elongated jaw; 7CR for a locking plier with curved jaw; 6R for a C clamp; 20R for a chain clamp; 10CR for a locking plier with curved jaw; 7R for a locking plier with straight jaw; 10WR for a locking plier with wire cutter; 7WR for a locking plier with wire cutter; 5WR for a locking plier with wire cutter; RR for a locking specialty tool, namely, a pinch-off tool; 10R for a locking plier with straight jaw; 9R for a locking specialty tool, namely, a welding clamp; 8R for locking specialty tools, namely, metal clamping tools; and 11R for a C clamp); In re Waldes Kohinoor, Inc., 124 USPQ 471 (TTAB 1960) (holding that 5131, 5000, and 5100 for retaining rings functioned only to differentiate one type of the applicant’s retaining rings from its other types and did not function as a trademark to distinguish the applicant’s goods from those of others); Ex parte Esterbrook Pen Co., 109 USPQ 368 (Comm’r Pats. 1956) (holding that 2668 for pen points did not function as a mark because it was merely a style number for a particular pen point used to differentiate one pen point from other points in the product line).

Model designations also are commonly used to distinguish between different types of automobile parts within a single product line. See In re Dana Corp., 12 USPQ2d 1748 (TTAB 1989) (holding that the following alphanumeric designations used in connection with vehicle parts functioned only as part numbers and not as trademarks: 5-469X; 5-438X; 5-510X; 5-515X; 5-407X; 5-279X; and 5-281X). In addition, model designations may serve the purpose of providing users with product compatibility information between goods and parts, accessories, and/or fittings for the goods. See In re Otis Eng’g Corp., 218 USPQ 959, 960 (TTAB 1983) (noting that the fact that various pieces of applicant’s “X” equipment for oil wells are compatible with each other tends to support the position that “X” is a style or model designation, but finding that the specimens, advertising brochures, and affidavits when considered together demonstrate that “X” also functions as a trademark). They also facilitate ordering and tracking of goods. Id. (noting that the use of the same designation on various goods that work together would enable purchasers to order compatible equipment).

Grade designations are used to denote that a product has a certain level of quality within a defined range. They may also indicate that a product has a certain classification, size, weight, type, degree, or mode of manufacturing. Mere grade designations are often used by competitors within an industry, or by the general public, and do not indicate origin from a single source because their principal function is to provide information about the product to a consumer. See 1 Anne Gilson LaLonde, Gilson on Trademarks §2.03(4)(a) (Matthew Bender 2011). (Note: the use of a grade designation in the context of a certification mark is not discussed herein.)

For example, the fuel industry utilizes grade designations in the form of particular numbers to delineate different octane ratings of fuel. See In re Union Oil Co., 33 USPQ 43 (C.C.P.A. 1937) (affirming the decision of the Commissioner of Patents refusing to register 76 for gasoline because the term functioned merely as a grade or quality mark to indicate either the octane rating or the Baume gravity rating and did not indicate origin). Grade designations have also been used to signify the composition or strength of various types of steel. See Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. v. Armco Steel Corp., 139 USPQ 132 (TTAB 1963) (holding that the terms 17-4PH and 17-7PH originally served only as a grade designation for stainless steel based on the composition of chromium and nickel, but finding the evidence of secondary meaning sufficient for registration). The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) assigns grades in connection with butter to delineate between different quality levels based on flavor, aroma, and texture. See Agric. Mktg. Serv., U.S. Dep’t of Agric., How to Buy Butter (Feb. 1995), http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELDEV3002487. The USDA also assigns grades to other food products, such as eggs, meat, and poultry. See Agric. Mktg. Serv., U.S. Dep’t of Agric., Egg-Grading Manual (July 2000), http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELDEV3004502; Inspection & Grading of Meat and Poultry: What Are the Differences?, U.S. Dep’t of Agric. (Aug. 22, 2008), http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Inspection_&_Grading/index.asp.


TMEP 1202.16(a) Examination of Marks with Model and Grade Designations

A trademark comprises a word, name, symbol, device, or combination thereof that is used to identify the goods of an applicant, to distinguish them from the goods of others, and to indicate the source of the goods. Trademark Act §§1-2, 45, 15 U.S.C. §§1051-1052, 1127; see TMEP §1202. Similar to a trademark, a model or grade designation is generally comprised of numbers or letters, or a combination thereof. However, the manner of use, and resulting commercial impression imparted by the matter, differentiate a mere model or grade designation from that of a trademark (or a dual-purpose mark that is both a model or grade designation and a trademark). While letters, numbers, or alphanumeric matter may serve as both a trademark and a model or grade designation, matter used merely as a model or grade designation serves only to differentiate between different products within a product line or delineate levels of quality, and does not indicate source. See Eastman Kodak Co. v. Bell & Howell Document Mgmt. Prods. Co., 994 F.2d 1569, 1576, 26 USPQ2d 1912, 1919 (Fed. Cir. 1993); Neapco Inc. v. Dana Corp., 12 USPQ2d 1746, 1748 (TTAB 1989); 1 Anne Gilson LaLonde, Gilson on Trademarks §2.03(4)(a) (Matthew Bender 2011); J. Thomas McCarthy, McCarthy on Trademarks and Unfair Competition §11.36 (4th ed. 2011).

Even though a model or grade designation seems “arbitrary” in the sense that the combination of letters, numbers, or both does not immediately describe the goods, it often does not function as a trademark. See Gilson LaLonde, supra, §2.03(4)(a). Where the model or grade designation fails to distinguish the applicant’s goods from those of others or to identify the applicant as the source, the proposed mark must be refused registration on the Principal Register under §§1, 2, and 45 for failure to function as a trademark. 15 U.S.C. §§1051-1052, 1127. However, if the mark both identifies a model or grade designation and serves as a trademark, no failure-to-function refusal should issue. See Ex parte Eastman Kodak Co., 55 USPQ 361, 362 (Comm’r Pats. 1942) (“The fundamental question is not whether or not the mark as used by applicant serves to indicate grade or quality but rather whether it is or is not so used that purchasers and the public will recognize the mark as indicating the source of origin of the goods.”).

In addition, the examining attorney must also consider whether the proposed mark is merely descriptive, or even generic. Trademark Act §2(e)(1), 15 U.S.C. §1052(e)(1). Grade designations often become synonymous with (and thus merely descriptive of) a classification, value, size, weight, type, degree, mode of manufacturing, or level of quality of the goods. And, more infrequently, model designations can be used in a merely descriptive manner. See Textron, Inc. v. Omark Indus., Inc., 208 USPQ 524, 527-28 (TTAB 1980) (holding that model numbers which have been used in the same manner by competitors for indicating the size of the saw chains as to pitch and gauge are merely descriptive and not registrable).


TMEP 1202.16(b) Identifying Model and Grade Designations in Marks

TMEP 1202.16(b)(i) Model Designations

Determining whether a proposed mark is used merely as a model designation is a question of fact. See In re Petersen Mfg. Co., 229 USPQ 466 (TTAB 1986) (finding that purchasers recognized the designations as trademarks in addition to functioning as model designations based on the ex parte record presented). The factual finding focuses on whether the proposed mark, as used on the specimen (and any other evidence of record), also identifies the applicant as the source of the goods or distinguishes the applicant’s goods from the goods of others. Extrinsic evidence may also aid in determining whether the proposed mark functions as a source indicator. The following three considerations comprise guidelines for determining whether a proposed mark, as used on a specimen, serves merely as a model designation or whether it also functions as a source indicator.


TMEP 1202.16(b)(i)(A) Stylization of Display

The stylization of display refers to the visual presentation or “look” of a proposed mark on the specimen, and takes into consideration such elements as font style and color as well as design features. In some cases, the stylization creates an impression separate and apart from that of a model designation, thereby making the designation more likely to be perceived as a trademark. In analyzing stylization of display, the examining attorney should consider whether the font or stylization of lettering in the proposed mark is unusual or relatively ordinary, and should also consider the degree of stylization. Where the stylization is minimal, the proposed mark may be more likely to be perceived as merely a model designation.


TMEP 1202.16(b)(i)(B) Size of Proposed Mark

Size refers to the relative dimension of the proposed mark. If the proposed mark appears large in relation to any other matter, it may immediately catch the eye and make the proposed mark the focal point on the specimen. Therefore, the proposed mark would be less likely to be perceived as a mere model designation. If the proposed mark is smaller than the other matter surrounding it, however, consumers would be more likely to perceive it as merely a model designation.


TMEP 1202.16(b)(i)(C) Physical Location

The physical location refers to the actual position of the proposed mark on a specimen. Although there is no prescribed location on a specimen where the proposed mark must be placed to qualify as a trademark, the physical location of matter on a specimen suggests how the mark would be perceived by consumers and whether such matter serves as a trademark or is merely a model designation. The display of a proposed mark in a prominent location on the goods themselves, or on the packaging or label, is a factor that may contribute to finding that it serves as a trademark. A proposed mark that appears in close proximity to generic or informational matter (such as the common or class name for the goods, net weight, bar code, or country of origin) is less likely to be perceived as a mark because it will be viewed together with the generic or informational matter as merely conveying information about the model of a particular product line.


TMEP 1202.16(b)(ii) Grade Designations

A grade designation often indicates a standard that is common to producers or manufacturers within an industry. Determining whether a proposed mark is used merely as a grade designation is a question of fact. See In re Flintkote Co., 132 USPQ 295, 296 (TTAB 1961) (citing Kiekhaefer Corp. v. Willys-Overland Motors, Inc., 111 USPQ 105 (C.C.P.A. 1956)); J. Thomas McCarthy, McCarthy on Trademarks and Unfair Competition §11.36 (4th ed. 2011). Thus, the examining attorney must supplement consideration of the application content (i.e., the drawing, the description of the mark, the identification of goods or services, and the specimen, if any), with independent research of the applicant’s and competitors’ websites, the Internet, and databases such as LexisNexis® to determine how the designation is used in the industry. Such research will assist in determining whether the proposed mark is used by others to convey a specific characteristic of the goods (such as value, size, type, degree, or level of quality) and, as such, has a publicly recognized meaning. For example, if the evidence shows that A, B, C, and D, or 1, 2, 3, and 4, are commonly used in an industry to represent a hierarchy of quality, a mark consisting of such a letter or number likely would not indicate source in any one producer or manufacturer. See Shaw Stocking Co. v. Mack, 12 F. 707, 711 (C.C.N.D.N.Y. 1882) (“It is very clear that no manufacturer would have the right exclusively to appropriate the figures 1, 2, 3, and 4, or the letters A, B, C, and D, to distinguish the first, second, third and fourth quality of his goods, respectively. Why? Because the general signification and common use of these letters and figures are such, that no man is permitted to assign a personal and private meaning to that which has by long usage and universal acceptation acquired a public and generic meaning.”); 1 Anne Gilson LaLonde, Gilson on Trademarks §2.03(4)(a) (Matthew Bender 2011).

Where extrinsic evidence shows that matter in the proposed mark is used by competitors or members of the public to convey the same type of designation of quality, the resulting commercial impression is merely that of a grade designation with no source-identifying capability. The examining attorney should also analyze the specimen using the same considerations for model designations (i.e., stylization of display on the specimen, size of matter on the specimen, physical location on the specimen) to bolster a refusal based on a failure to function as a mark. A lack of extrinsic evidence of usage of the proposed mark as a grade designation does not necessarily foreclose a refusal, where the nature of applicant’s use and the same considerations for model designations (i.e., stylization of display on the specimen, size of matter on the specimen, physical location on the specimen) indicate a grade designation.


TMEP 1202.16(c) Procedures for Handling Marks with Model and Grade Designations

TMEP 1202.16(c)(i) Evidentiary Considerations when Issuing Model or Grade Designation Refusals

TMEP 1202.16(c)(i)(A) Model Designations

To support a refusal to register a model designation for failure to function as a mark, the examining attorney must use the applicant’s specimen, along with any other relevant evidence in the application, such as the identification of goods and mark description. If available, the examining attorney should also provide additional evidence that shows that the proposed mark would be perceived merely as a model designation, such as consumers referring to the applicant’s proposed mark as a model or part number when ordering the goods. Evidence that other manufacturers use similar numbering systems to identify model numbers for their goods may be submitted to show that consumers are familiar with the use of alphanumeric designations as model numbers and are consequently less likely to perceive the applicant’s use of the mark as source indicating.


TMEP 1202.16(c)(i)(B) Grade Designations

A refusal or requirement (such as a disclaimer requirement) on the basis that a mark comprises or includes a grade designation must be supported by relevant evidence. Where extrinsic evidence is available to show that a proposed grade designation is used by competitors within an industry and/or members of the public to convey the same meaning, the examining attorney must attach the evidence to the Office action and explain its relevance to the refusal. For example, evidence demonstrating that other manufacturers use the same or similar grading systems to identify quality levels of their own goods may be submitted with an explanation that such evidence shows that the proposed mark does not indicate origin from a single source. If no extrinsic evidence is available, the examining attorney must use the applicant’s specimen, along with any other relevant evidence of record, to support a grade designation refusal for failure to function as a mark. In such situations, the examining attorney must also issue a request for relevant information (such as fact sheets, instruction manuals, and/or advertisements depicting the applicant’s use of the proposed mark, and evidence of any industry use of this designation or similar designations) pursuant to 37 C.F.R. §2.61(b).


TMEP 1202.16(c)(ii) Entire Mark Consists of Model or Grade Designation in §1(a) Applications

If the evidence shows that a proposed mark consists entirely of a mere model or grade designation, the examining attorney must refuse registration on the Principal Register under §§1, 2, and 45 because the proposed mark does not function as a trademark to identify and distinguish the applicant’s goods from those of others and indicate the source of the goods. 15 U.S.C. §§1051-1052, 1127.

For such refusals, where appropriate, the examining attorney should advise the applicant of the various response options: (1) submitting a substitute specimen that shows the proposed mark being used as a trademark for the identified goods; (2) claiming acquired distinctiveness under §2(f) with actual evidence of distinctiveness that establishes recognition of the proposed mark as a trademark for the goods; or (3) amending the application to seek registration on the Supplemental Register. See Trademark Act §23, 15 U.S.C. §1091; In re Petersen Mfg. Co., 229 USPQ 466, 468 (TTAB 1986) (finding letter-number combinations registrable under §2(f) for locking hand tools and stating, “there is no question that such model designations can, through use and promotion, be perceived as marks indicating origin in addition to functioning as model designations.”); 37 C.F.R. §2.59(a); TMEP §904.05.

For marks comprising grade designations, the examining attorney must determine whether to make an additional refusal on the grounds that the mark is also merely descriptive of the goods. Trademark Act §2(e)(1), 15 U.S.C. §§1052(e)(1). Grade designations can often become synonymous with (and thus merely descriptive of) a classification, value, size, weight, type, degree, mode of manufacturing, or level of quality of the goods. Grade designations that are also the generic name of the goods are not eligible for registration on the Principal Register under §2(f) or on the Supplemental Register because they are not capable of indicating the source of the goods and must remain available to identify the relevant characteristic possessed by goods meeting such criteria. In such cases, if the applicant responds by amending the application to seek registration on the Supplemental Register, the examining attorney must issue a generic refusal under §23. In the rare situation where the applicant is the sole user of a grade designation and where the mark appears capable, the applicant should be provided with the same response options identified above for applicable model designations.


TMEP 1202.16(c)(iii) Composite Mark with Model or Grade Designation in §1(a) Applications

Composite marks may comprise matter that is used as a model or grade designation in addition to other wording and/or design features. Such marks must be evaluated as a whole to determine whether they are registrable.


TMEP 1202.16(c)(iii)(A) Model or Grade Designations with Arbitrary and/or Suggestive Matter

Terms used as model or grade designations that are combined with arbitrary and/or suggestive matter are generally not refused registration under Trademark Act §§1, 2, and 45, if the additional matter imparts trademark significance to the mark as a whole. Generally, no disclaimer of a portion that is a model designation need be required (unless there is evidence of descriptive or generic usage) because the composite mark creates a single unitary commercial impression and there is no need to preserve the availability of the applicant’s model designation for others. However, the portion of a mark that is a grade designation must generally be disclaimed in cases where there is evidence of descriptive or generic use, to clarify the availability of the grade designation for use by others in the industry. Standard USPTO disclaimer practices would apply in such cases, including considerations of unitariness. See TMEP §§1213-1213.08(d).


TMEP 1202.16(c)(iii)(B) Model or Grade Designations with Descriptive, Generic, and/or Informational Matter

Terms used merely as model or grade designations that are combined with descriptive, generic, and/or informational matter are generally refused registration under Trademark Act §§1, 2, and 45 because this type of additional matter does not diminish the mark’s model or grade designation significance. In most instances involving model designations, claims of acquired distinctiveness under §2(f) and amendments to the Supplemental Register may be permissible. Additionally, in rare cases where there is no evidence of generic usage for grade designations, claims of acquired distinctiveness under §2(f) and amendments to the Supplemental Register may be permissible. In such cases, the examiner must consider standard USPTO disclaimer practice to determine whether a disclaimer of the generic and/or informational matter may be necessary. See TMEP §§1213-1213.08(d).


TMEP 1202.16(c)(iv) Drawing and Specimen Agreement Issues in §1(a) Applications

Occasionally, the specimen will show a possible model or grade designation that is not included on the drawing and thus, the mark on the drawing and specimen will appear to disagree. See TMEP §807.12(d). When it is unclear whether the additional matter is a model or grade designation, the examining attorney must require the applicant to clarify whether this matter is part of the mark. See 37 C.F.R. §2.61(b); TMEP §814. If the matter is not part of the mark and is merely used as a model or grade designation, the applicant may avoid an agreement issue by submitting the following: (1) a statement that the matter is merely a model or grade designation and (2) evidence showing use of the proposed mark with other similar notations or evidence clearly showing that the matter is merely a model or grade designation. See In re Raychem Corp., 12 USPQ2d 1399, 1400 (TTAB 1989) (holding the mark TINEL-LOCK on the drawing to agree with the wording TR06AI-TINEL-LOCK-RING appearing on the specimen where the notation TR06AI was merely a part or stock number, as supported by a submitted brochure that explained that each letter and number in the notation represented a specific type, size, and feature of the part, and the term RING was generic for the goods); In re Sansui Elec. Co., 194 USPQ 202, 203 (TTAB 1977) (holding the marks “QSE” and “QSD” on the drawing to agree with the wording “QSE-4” and “QSD-4” appearing on the specimens, where the notation “4” was merely a model number and the additional specimens showed use of the mark with various changing model numbers used to designate successive generations of equipment). In the alternative, the applicant may provide a substitute specimen showing the proposed mark depicted on the drawing. See 37 C.F.R. §2.59(a); TMEP §904.05. In cases where the record clearly indicates that the notation on the specimen is a model or grade designation, no inquiry is needed. See In re Raychem Corp., 12 USPQ2d at 1400.


TMEP 1202.16(c)(v) Model or Grade Designation in §1(b), §44, or §66(a) Applications

TMEP 1202.16(c)(v)(A) Model Designations

In §1(b), 44, or 66(a) applications, marks that appear to be merely model designations (either wholly comprising the mark or used with descriptive/generic/informational matter) may be refused registration for failure to function as a mark only where the drawing and mark description are dispositive of the mark’s failure to function, or the record clearly and unequivocally indicates that the entire mark identifies only a model designation. Cf. In re Right-On Co., 87 USPQ2d 1152, 1156-57 (TTAB 2008) (affirming an ornamentation refusal in a §66(a) application despite the lack of a specimen since the mark was decorative or ornamental on its face as depicted on the drawing page and described in the application). For those rare cases where a refusal issues in a §66(a) application, the examining attorney must not offer an amendment to the Supplemental Register. Applications filed under §66(a) are not eligible for registration on the Supplemental Register. 37 C.F.R. §§2.47(c), 2.75(c); TMEP §816.01; see also 15 U.S.C. §1141h(a)(4). Otherwise, because of the lack of specimen of use, a failure-to-function refusal is inappropriate.

If upon initial examination of a §1(b) application, an examining attorney must issue an Office action for other reasons, and the proposed mark appears to be used or intended to be used merely as a model designation, the examining attorney should include a model designation failure-to-function advisory as a courtesy to the applicant. See TMEP §1102.01. Regardless of whether an examining attorney issues an initial advisory before the applicant files an allegation of use, the examining attorney must issue a refusal based on failure to function as a mark after the allegation of use is filed, if supported by the evidence of record. Id.


TMEP 1202.16(c)(v)(B) Grade Designations

The examining attorney must refuse registration based on a failure to function as a mark for a mark merely comprising a grade designation (or a grade designation with descriptive/generic/informational matter) in a §1(b), 44, or 66(a) application where the evidence shows the mark is used in the industry or by the public in such a way as to clearly and unequivocally show use merely to identify a specific quality or feature of the goods. For more information about evidence, see TMEP §1202.16(c)(i)(B). If the examining attorney can find no extrinsic evidence of such use, the procedures outlined for model designations in TMEP §1202.16(c)(v)(A) must be followed.

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