TMEP 1202.17(a): Relevance of Universal Symbols to Examination

This is the October 2015 Edition of the TMEP

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1202.17(a)    Relevance of Universal Symbols to Examination

Universal symbols may appear as one element of a mark, or they may form an entire mark. The informational aspect of these symbols is often at odds with the functions of trademarks and service marks: to identify and distinguish one’s goods or services and indicate their source. Specifically, a universal symbol may fail to function as a mark because it only imparts information, conveys an informational message, or provides ornamentation. See 15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1052, 1053, 1127; TMEP §§12.2, 1202.03, 1202.04. In addition, a universal symbol may merely describe a feature, quality, function, purpose, or characteristic of goods or services. See 15 U.S.C. §1052(e)(1); TMEP §§12.9, 1209.01(b). If a universal symbol in a mark creates a false impression about a characteristic or quality of an applicant’s goods or services, the mark may be deceptive or deceptively misdescriptive. See 15 U.S.C. §§1052(a), 1052(e)(1); TMEP §§1203.02–1203.02(g), 1209.04. As explained in TMEP §1202.17(b), however, registration of a universal symbol may be permissible in some instances.