TMEP 1202.02(c)(i)(B): Nondistinctive Matter

This is the October 2015 Edition of the TMEP

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1202.02(c)(i)(B)    Nondistinctive Matter

Nonfunctional elements of a product design or product packaging trade dress mark that are inherently distinctive, that have acquired distinctiveness, or that are capable but for which acquired distinctiveness has not yet been established, may appear in solid lines on the drawing as part of the mark. Nonfunctional, nondistinctive elements that are capable of trademark significance but for which acquired distinctiveness has not been established must be disclaimed. A disclaimer is appropriate because, while these elements are not source indicators, they may still remain part of the mark. See 15 U.S.C. §§1051-1052, 1056(a), 1127. The disclaimer must be provided regardless of whether the remaining portions of the mark are determined to be registrable.

Occasionally, a trade dress mark may include elements that are nonfunctional, yet incapable of trademark significance, such as a common or basic shape of a product itself or the packaging in which a product is sold. These elements must be depicted in broken or dotted lines on the drawing because such elements cannot be considered part of the mark. Cf.Traffix Devices v. Mktg. Displays, 532 U.S. 23, 32, 58 USPQ2d 1001, 1006 (2001) (noting that functional features of product design cannot serve as trademarks); In re Famous Foods, Inc., 217 USPQ 177, 177 (TTAB 1983) (noting that functional features of product packaging should be shown in dotted lines). Usually, amendments of drawings to depict incapable elements in broken or dotted lines do not materially alter the mark because the incapable elements are, by definition, not source indicating. See 37 C.F.R. §2.52(b)(4); In re Water Gremlin Co., 635 F.2d 841, 844, 208 USPQ 89, 91 (C.C.P.A. 1980). Therefore, the examining attorney must issue a requirement for an amended drawing that depicts the incapable elements in broken or dotted lines, and a corresponding amended mark description to reflect that the incapable elements shown in broken or dotted lines are not claimed as part of the mark. See 37 C.F.R. §2.52(b)(4). The applicant must provide the amended drawing regardless of whether the remaining portions of the mark are determined to be registrable.

See TMEP §807.14 regarding material alteration, TMEP §1202.02(c)(ii) regarding descriptions of trade dress marks, TMEP §1011.03 regarding amendment of marks in §44 applications, and TMEP §§1904.02(j)-(k) regarding amendment of marks in §66(a) applications.