TMEP 1202.17(b)(i): Identifying Universal Symbols in Marks

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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1202.17(b)(i)    Identifying Universal Symbols in Marks

If a mark includes or consists of a symbol (or an unfamiliar symbol-like element), the examining attorney should review the application for any information the applicant may have provided about the symbol and ensure that an accurate description is included in the record. See TMEP §§ 808.03, 808.03(b), 808.03(d). The examining attorney may also use the mark’s assigned design codes to determine the name of the symbol and to search the Trademark database for applications and registrations that describe the symbol. See TMEP §104. If the design codes assigned to the mark do not accurately reflect the significant elements of the mark, the examining attorney should ensure that the design codes are updated so that the correct codes are listed. See TMEP §808.03(f). After identifying the symbol, the examining attorney may find additional information about it by using Internet search engines or symbol reference websites.

Even without the name of the symbol, the examining attorney may be able to find information about it by entering a textual description of it in an Internet search engine. For instance, one could find information about the recycling symbol, even without knowing the name of the symbol, by using the following textual description in a search engine query: "green curved arrows triangle." Additionally, the examining attorney could consult a symbol reference website that provides a means of searching based on a symbol’s graphical characteristics. See, Graphic Index, (accessed Aug. 24, 2012).

In addition, the Trademark Law Library holds a number of reference books about symbols and their meaning, and its librarians are available to assist USPTO personnel in researching questions regarding the identity, significance, and use of symbols. Furthermore, under Trademark Rule 2.61(b), the examining attorney may require the applicant to provide additional information about an unfamiliar symbol in a mark. 37 C.F.R. §2.61(b).

The examining attorney’s research may show that a symbol (or symbol-like element) in a mark is not a universal symbol. However, other symbols, symbol-like elements, and designs that are not universal symbols may nonetheless be perceived only as informational matter and thus fail to function as marks. In these instances, the examining attorney need not take any further action with respect to the universal symbol analysis, but should ensure that the application record contains a mark description that accurately describes the significant elements of the mark. TMEP §§808.01, 808.02, 808.03(b). The examining attorney should otherwise review the application according to standard USPTO practice and determine whether it complies with all applicable trademark statutes and rules.