MPEP 608.01(v)
Marks Used in Commerce and Trade Names

This is the Ninth Edition of the MPEP, Revision 08.2017, Last Revised in Januay 2018

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608.01(v)    Marks Used in Commerce and Trade Names [R-07.2015]

15 U.S.C. 1127  Construction and definitions; intent of chapter

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The terms "trade name" and "commercial name" mean any name used by a person to identify his or her business or vocation.

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 chapter,

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.

The term "service mark" means 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 chapter,

to identify and distinguish the services of one person, including a unique service, from the services of others and to indicate the source of the services, even if that source is unknown. Titles, character names, and other distinctive features of radio or television programs may be registered as service marks notwithstanding that they, or the programs, may advertise the goods of the sponsor.

The term "certification mark" means any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof-

  • (1) used by a person other than its owner, or
  • (2) which its owner has a bona fide intention to permit a person other than the owner to use in commerce and files an application to register on the principal register established by this chapter,

to certify regional or other origin, material, mode of manufacture, quality, accuracy, or other characteristics of such person's goods or services or that the work or labor on the goods or services was performed by members of a union or other organization.

The term "collective mark" means a trademark or service mark-

  • (1) used by the members of a cooperative, an association, or other collective group or organization, or
  • (2) which such cooperative, association, or other collective group or organization has a bona fide intention to use in commerce and applies to register on the principal register established by this chapter,

and includes marks indicating membership in a union, an association, or other organization.

The term "mark" includes any trademark, service mark, collective mark, or certification mark.

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I.    PERMISSIBLE USE IN PATENT APPLICATIONS

A mark as defined by 15 U.S.C. 1127 (i.e., trademark, service mark, collective mark, or certification mark) or trade name may be used in a patent application to identify an article or product, service, or organization if:

  • (A) its meaning is established by an accompanying definition in the specification which is sufficiently descriptive, enabling, precise and definite such that a claim including the mark or trade name complies with the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 112, or
  • (B) its meaning is well-known to one skilled in the relevant art and is satisfactorily defined in the literature.

See, e.g., United States Gypsum Co. v. National Gypsum Co., 74 F3d 1209, ____ n.6, 37 USPQ2d 1388, 1392 n. 6 (Fed. Cir. 1996). Condition (A) or (B) must be met at the time of filing of the complete application.

The relationship between a mark or trade name and the product, service, or organization it identifies is sometimes indefinite, uncertain, and arbitrary. For example, the formula or characteristics of a product may change from time to time and yet it may continue to be sold under the same mark or trade name. In patent specifications, the details of the product, service, or organization identified by a mark or trade name should be set forth in positive, exact, intelligible language, so that there will be no uncertainty as to what is meant. Arbitrary marks or trade names which are liable to mean different things at the pleasure of the owner do not constitute such language. Ex Parte Kattwinkle, 12 USPQ 11 (Bd. App. 1931).

If the product, service, or organization to which a mark refers is set forth in such language that its identity is clear, examiners are authorized to permit the use of the mark if it is distinguished from common descriptive nouns by capitalization. See subsection II, below. If a mark or trade name has a fixed and definite meaning, it constitutes sufficient identification unless some specific characteristic of the product, service, or organization is involved in the invention such that further description is necessary to comply with the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 112. In that event, as also in those cases where the mark or trade name has no fixed and definite meaning, identification by scientific or other explanatory language is necessary. See, e.g., United States Gypsum Co. v. National Gypsum Co., 74 F3d 1209, ____ n.6, 37 USPQ2d 1388, 1392 n. 6 (Fed. Cir. 1996); In re Gebauer-Fuelnegg, 121 F.2d 505, 50 USPQ 125 (CCPA 1941).

The matter of sufficiency of disclosure must be decided on an individual case-by-case basis. In re Metcalfe, 410 F.2d 1378, 161 USPQ 789 (CCPA 1969).

Where the identification of a mark or trade name is introduced by amendment, it must be restricted to the characteristics of the product, service, or organization known at the time the application was filed to avoid any question of new matter.

If proper identification of the product, service, or organization identified by a mark or a trade name is omitted from the specification and such identification is deemed necessary under the principles set forth above, the examiner should hold the disclosure insufficient and reject, on the ground of insufficient disclosure, any claims based on the identification of the product, service, or organization merely by mark or trade name. If, for example, a product cannot be otherwise defined, an amendment defining the process of its manufacture may be permitted unless such amendment would result in the introduction of new matter. Such amendments must be supported by satisfactory showings establishing that the specific nature or process of manufacture of the product as set forth in the amendment was known at the time of filing of the application.

II.    PROPRIETARY NATURE OF MARKS USED IN COMMERCE

Although the use of marks having definite meanings is permissible in patent applications, the proprietary nature of the marks should be respected. Marks should be identified by capitalizing each letter of the mark (in the case of word or letter marks) or otherwise indicating the description of the mark (in the case of marks in the form of a symbol or device or other nontextual form). Every effort should be made to prevent their use in any manner which might adversely affect their validity as marks.

Examiners may conduct a search for registered marks by using the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) which is available on the USPTO website to determine whether an apparent or identified mark in the patent application is a registered mark or to what particular goods a registered mark applies.

Form paragraph 6.20 may be used to inform applicant of the proprietary nature of marks used in commerce.

¶ 6.20    Trade Names, Trademarks, and Other Marks Used in Commerce

The use of the term [1], which is a trade name or a mark used in commerce, has been noted in this application. It should be capitalized wherever it appears and be accompanied by the generic terminology.

Although the use of trade names and marks used in commerce (i.e., trade marks, service marks, certification marks, and collective marks) are permissible in patent applications, the proprietary nature of the marks should be respected and every effort made to prevent their use in any manner which might adversely affect their validity as commercial marks.

Examiner Note:

1. Capitalize each letter of the word in the bracket or, where appropriate, include a proper symbol indicating use in commerce such as ™, SM, or ® following the word.

2. Examiners may conduct a search for registered marks by using the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) which is available on the USPTO website to determine whether a mark identified in the patent application is a registered mark or not.

The examiner should not permit the use of language such as "the product X (a descriptive name) commonly known as Y (trade name or mark)" since such language does not bring out the fact that the latter is a trade name or mark. Language such as "the product X (a descriptive name) sold under the trademark Y" is permissible.

The use of a mark in the title of an application should be avoided as well as the use of a mark coupled with the word "type", e.g., "Band-Aid type bandage."

In the event that a registered mark is a "symbol or device" depicted in a drawing, either the brief description of the drawing or the detailed description of the drawing should specify that the "symbol or device" is a registered mark of Company X. The owner of a mark may be identified in the specification.

Technology Center Directors should reply to all complaint letters regarding the misuse of marks used in commerce and forward a copy of the complaint letter and reply to the Office of the Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy. Where a letter demonstrates the misuse of a mark in a patent application publication, the Office should, where the application is still pending, ensure that the mark is replaced by appropriate generic terminology.