Toilet Paper and Trademarks. What do these items have in common?
Well, in recent times, they are both items that have become hot commodities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s actually quite common for businesses and ambitious entrepreneurs to rush to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) after a major disaster or crisis. They try to register words currently in vogue; in this case, all things related to CoVID-19. Over 1500 applications have been filed with the USPTO specific to COVID, Coronavirus, C-19, etc. Some applicants, trying to catch windfall by filing applications for words and phrases, such as “Covidiot” and “Straight Outta COVID”, may find they are unsuccessful. The majority of those requests will be denied, as descriptive or generic. A trademark is merely descriptive if it “immediately conveys” the ingredients, qualities, or characteristics of the goods or services with which it is used. A trademark will be considered merely descriptive if it conveys any aspect, purpose, function or use, or desirable characteristic of the goods or services. But perhaps a few clever applicants will find a way around those grounds for refusal.
What’s important to note about this occurrence is the lack of understanding involved in knowing what a trademark is, what its purpose is, etc. A trademark isn’t just a good idea – it’s a source identifier. A word, phrase, design, color, sound, logo, or combination of those things that identifies the source of a product or service. Further, in the United States, among other obstacles that must be overcome, proof of use is required before an application can rise to the level of a registration.
The bottom line is – if your mark, at a minimum, doesn’t meet the above requirements, don’t waste your money filing for trademark registration. Until next time – I’m Francine D. Ward, Intellectual Property Attorney. If you are interested in knowing whether your COVID-19-related product or service meets the test, feel free to set up a complimentary consultation.
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