A geographically deceptively misdescriptive trademark (which is different than a primarily geographically descriptive trademark) is ineligible for federal registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on either the Principal Register or Supplemental Register. The Lanham Act (which governs trademark registration in the US) specifically prohibits the registration of trademarks that are “primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive” of the products/services with which they are used.
The concept of “acquired distinctiveness” (also referred to as “secondary meaning”) is extremely important when it comes to registering a non-distinctive trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The following are common examples of non-distinctive trademarks:
- Merely descriptive trademarks
- Trademarks that are primarily merely surnames
- Deceptively misdescriptive trademarks
- Primarily geographically descriptive trademarks
Non-distinctive trademarks are normally only eligible for registration on the Supplemental Register (as opposed to the Principal Register). But, there are circumstances under which non-distinctive marks can be registered on the Principal Register. Those circumstances have to do with the concept of acquired distinctiveness under what is known as Section 2(f) of the Trademark Act.
A trademark that is primarily merely a surname is only eligible for registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on the Supplemental Register, unless it has acquired distinctiveness or “secondary meaning” in the minds of the purchasing public. A “surname” is also often referred to as a “last name” or “family name.” Some very common examples of surnames include “Smith,” “Johnson,” “Williams,” and “Jones.” However, there are millions of other surnames among the US population, many of which are shared by only a handful of people. As such, it’s not always clear when a trademark would be considered primarily merely a surname.
After you file your trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), you may receive a trademark office action requesting that you provide a disclaimer of a particular element of your trademark. Usually, the requested disclaimer is for words or phrases that comprise a portion of your trademark, but the request could also be to disclaim a design or portion of a design. The good news is that dealing with a such a request is generally quite straightforward and non-controversial.
A primarily geographically descriptive trademark (not to be confused with a geographically deceptively misdescriptive trademark) is only entitled to registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on the Supplemental Register, unless it has become distinctive of the products or services listed in the trademark application. If it has become distinctive, then it would be eligible for registration on the Principal Register. I invite you to review my blog post titled “Supplemental Register vs. Principal Register – What is the Difference?” so that you understand the many important differences between the two registers and the rights afforded by each one.
A deceptively misdescriptive trademark (as opposed to a deceptive trademark) is only eligible for registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on the Principal Register if it has acquired distinctiveness or “secondary meaning” in the minds of consumers. Otherwise, a deceptively misdescriptive trademark is only entitled to registration on the Supplemental Register. I encourage you to read my article titled “Supplemental Register vs. Principal Register – What is the Difference?” to learn more about the important distinctions between the two registers maintained by the USPTO.
A deceptive trademark (as opposed to a deceptively misdescriptive trademark) is not eligible for registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) under any circumstances. The Lanham Act (which is the law that governs federal trademark registration) specifically prohibits the registration of a trademark that “consists of or comprises deceptive matter.” This means that the USPTO is legally obligated to refuse registration of your trademark if it determines that your mark is wholly deceptive or includes a deceptive term.
The Notice of Allowance is a very important milestone for a trademark application that was filed on an intent to use basis. The Notice of Allowance essentially indicates that (1) the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) approved your application after examination, (2) your application was published for opposition, and (3) a third-party did not prevent the registration of your trademark. Although the Notice of Allowance brings you one step closer to the successful registration of your trademark, it’s critical that you understand what you need to do next in order to complete the registration process.
You might see the phrase “published for opposition” when you check the status of your trademark application on the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website. The meaning of “published for opposition” is something that all owners of pending trademark applications should understand because it can be the most consequential part of the entire US trademark registration process.
Current and prospective clients ask me all the time, “How long to register a trademark in the US?” Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that seemingly simple question. Depending on your particular situation, it could be a matter of months. But, in some cases, it could take many years. The good news is that no matter how long it takes for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to issue the Certificate of Registration, all of your federal trademark rights date back to the filing date of your trademark application. In other words, it’s not the actual registration date that matters. In fact, the registration date is only relevant to calculate trademark registration renewal and maintenance deadlines. It’s the application filing date that reserves your nationwide priority to use your trademark in connection with the advertising and sale of the products/services listed in your application.