What Can Be Trademarked?

As the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) defines it, a trademark is any word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things can be trademarked as long as the word, phrase, symbol, or design identifies the source of the goods and/or services in order to distinguish them from the goods and/or services of another. Under Trademark Law, practically anything can be registered as a trademark, as long as it identifies the source of good and/or services, and is used in commerce.  The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) can register a wide variety of trademarks, as long as they meet certain legal requirements. Some of the types of marks that can be registered with the USPTO include:

  • Words or phrases: This includes traditional trademarks, such as product or service names, slogans, and taglines.
  • Logos and symbols: These can include designs, graphics, and logos that are used in connection with goods and services.
  • Color: A single color, or combination of colors can be trademarked if it is used in a distinct and non-functional way.
  • Sound: A sound or jingle, if it can function as a trademark, can be registered with the USPTO.
  • Trade dress: This refers to the overall appearance and packaging of a product, which can also be registered as a trademark.
  • Non-Traditional trademarks: These are not clearly defined, examples include smell, taste, texture, packaging, and other elements.

The mark must be used in commerce and must be distinctive. Generally, the trademark must be either arbitrary or fanciful, or have acquired secondary meaning if it is descriptive (or a surname). Additionally, the trademark should not be too similar to an existing trademark (pending or registered), should not be too descriptive, or should not be primarily geographically descriptive.

Additionally, the trademark must not be scandalous, immoral, or disparaging, and it must not be primarily geographically descriptive or deceptively misdescriptive of the goods or services it is used to identify.

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