TMEP 1202.02(e): Trade Dress in §44 and §66(a) Applications

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

Previous: §1202.02(d) | Next: §1202.02(f)

1202.02(e)    Trade Dress in §44 and §66(a) Applications

Distinctiveness and Product Design

A product design trade dress mark can never be inherently distinctive and is registrable only upon a showing of secondary meaning. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Samara Bros., 529 U.S. 205, 212-213, 54 USPQ2d 1065, 1068-1069 (2000); In re Slokevage, 441 F.3d 957, 962, 78 USPQ2d 1395, 1399 (Fed. Cir. 2006); TMEP §1202.02(b)(i). See TMEP §§ 1202.02(b) and 1202.02(b)(i) regarding distinctiveness of product design trade dress. Therefore, if the proposed mark is comprised of a product design, the examining attorney must refuse registration on the Principal Register on the ground that the proposed mark consists of a nondistinctive product design under §§1, 2, and 45 of the Trademark Act. 15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1052, and 1127.

Distinctiveness and Product Packaging

If the mark comprises product packaging trade dress for goods or services, the examining attorney must determine whether the mark is inherently distinctive. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Samara Bros., 529 U.S. 205, 212-13, 54 USPQ2d 1065, 1068-69 (2000); Two Pesos, Inc. v. Taco Cabana, Inc., 505 U.S. 763, 773-75, 23 USPQ2d 1081, 1085-86 (1992). See TMEP §§ 1202.02(b) and 1202.02(b)(ii) regarding distinctiveness of product packaging trade dress. Because a specimen of use is not required prior to registration in these cases, it is appropriate for the examining attorney to issue the refusal where the mark on its face, as shown on the drawing and described in the description of the mark, reflects a lack of distinctiveness. Cf. In re Right-On Co., 87 USPQ2d 1152, 1156-57 (TTAB 2008) (noting the propriety of and affirming an ornamentation refusal in a §66(a) application despite the lack of a specimen).


If the application itself (i.e., the drawing, the description of the mark, and identification of goods/services) and/or the evidence uncovered during an independent search support that the proposed mark is functional, the examining attorney must issue a refusal of registration on the Principal Register under §2(e)(5). See TMEP §§1202.02(a)–1202.02(a)(viii) regarding functionality.