TMEP 1202.05(h): Color Marks in §1(b) Applications

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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1202.05(h)    Color Marks in §1(b) Applications

A color mark can never be inherently distinctive. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Samara Bros., 529 U.S. 205, 211-12, 54 USPQ2d 1065, 1068 (2000) (citing Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Prods. Co., 514 U.S. 159, 162-63, 34 USPQ2d 1161, 1162-63 (1995)); TMEP §1202.05(a). Therefore, the examining attorney must refuse to register a color mark on the Principal Register unless the applicant establishes that the mark has acquired distinctiveness under §2(f). The ground for refusal is that the color is not inherently distinctive and, thus, does not function as a trademark under §§1, 2, and 45 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1052, and 1127, or does not function as a service mark under §§1, 2, 3, and 45, 15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1052, 1053, and 1127.

The issue of whether the proposed color mark is functional requires consideration of the manner in which the mark is used. Generally, no refusal on these grounds will be issued in a §1(b) application until the applicant has submitted specimen(s) of use with an allegation of use (i.e., either an amendment to allege use under 15 U.S.C. §1051(c)   or a statement of use under 15 U.S.C. §1051(d)). See TMEP §§ 1102.01, 1202.02(d), 1202.03(e), and 1202.05(b). The specimen(s) provide a better record upon which to determine the registrability of the mark. In appropriate cases, the examining attorney will bring the potential refusal to the applicant’s attention in the initial Office action. This is done strictly as a courtesy. If information regarding this possible ground for refusal is not provided to the applicant before the allegation of use is filed, the USPTO is not precluded from refusing registration on this basis.