T.M.E.P. § 1202
Use of Subject Matter as Trademark
This document contains one section of the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (the "TMEP"), Fourth Edition (April 2005). This page was last updated in June 2007. You may return to one either the section index, or to the key word index. If you wish to search the TMEP, simply use the search box that appears on the bottom of every page of BitLaw--be sure to restrict your search to the TMEP in the pop-up list.
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1202 Use of Subject Matter as Trademark
In an application under §1 of the Act, the examining attorney must determine whether the subject matter for which registration is sought is used as a trademark by reviewing all evidence (e.g., the specimens of use and any promotional material) of record in the application. See In re Safariland Hunting Corp., 24 USPQ2d 1380 (TTAB 1992) (examining attorney should look primarily to specimens to determine whether a designation would be perceived as a source indicator, but may also consider other evidence, if there is other evidence of record).
Not everything that a party adopts and uses with the intent that it function as a trademark necessarily achieves this goal or is legally capable of doing so, and not everything that is recognized or associated with a party is necessarily a registrable trademark. As the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals observed in In re Standard Oil Co., 275 F.2d 945, 947, 125 USPQ 227, 229 (C.C.P.A. 1960):
The Trademark Act is not an act to register words but to register trademarks. Before there can be registrability, there must be a trademark (or a service mark) and, unless words have been so used, they cannot qualify for registration. Words are not registrable merely because they do not happen to be descriptive of the goods or services with which they are associated.
Sections 1 and 2 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1051 and 1052, require that the subject matter presented for registration be a "trademark." Section 45 of the Act, 15 U.S.C. 1127, defines that term as follows:
The term "trademark" includes any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof--
(1) used by a person, or
(2) which a person has a bona fide intention to use in commerce and applies to register on the principal register established by this Act,to identify and distinguish his or her goods, including a unique product, from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods, even if that source is unknown.
Thus, §§1, 2 and 45 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1052, and 1127, provide the statutory basis for refusal to register on the Principal Register subject matter that, due to its inherent nature or the manner in which it is used, does not function as a mark to identify and distinguish the applicant's goods. The statutory basis for refusal of registration on the Supplemental Register of matter that does not function as a trademark because it does not fit within the statutory definition of a trademark is §§23 and 45, 15 U.S.C. §§1091 and 1127.
When the examining attorney refuses registration on the ground that the subject matter is not used as a trademark, the examining attorney should explain the specific reason for the conclusion that the subject matter is not used as a trademark. See TMEP §§1202.01 et seq. for a discussion of situations in which it may be appropriate, depending on the circumstances, for the examining attorney to refuse registration on the ground that the asserted trademark does not function as a trademark, e.g., TMEP§§1202.01 (trade names), 1202.02(a) et seq. (functionality), 1202.03 (ornamentation), 1202.04 (informational matter), 1202.05 (color marks), 1202.06 (goods in trade), 1202.07 (columns or sections of publications), 1202.08 (title of single creative work), 1202.09 (names of artists and authors), 1202.10 (model or grade designations), 1202.11 (background designs and shapes), 1202.12 (varietal and cultivar names).
The presence of the letters "SM" or "TM" cannot transform an otherwise unregistrable designation into a mark. In re Remington Products Inc., 3 USPQ2d 1714 (TTAB 1987); In re Anchor Hocking Corp., 223 USPQ 85 (TTAB 1984); In re Minnetonka, Inc., 212 USPQ 772 (TTAB 1981).
See TMEP §§1301.02 et seq. regarding use of subject matter as a service mark; TMEP §§1302 through 1304 regarding use of subject matter as a collective mark; and TMEP §1306 regarding use of subject matter as a certification mark.