TMEP 1209.02(a): Descriptive Marks – Advisory Statement That Mark Appears to Be Generic

This is the October 2015 Edition of the TMEP

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1209.02(a)    Descriptive Marks – Advisory Statement That Mark Appears to Be Generic

A designation that is merely descriptive must be refused registration under §2(e)(1) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(e)(1). The examining attorney must not initially issue a refusal in an application for registration on the Principal Register on the ground that a mark is a generic name for the goods or services, unless the applicant asserts that the mark has acquired distinctiveness under §2(f) in the application itself. See TMEP §1209.02(b). Even if it appears that the mark is generic, the proper basis for the initial refusal is §2(e)(1) descriptiveness. If there is strong evidence that the proposed mark is generic, a statement that the subject matter appears to be a generic name for the goods or services should be included in conjunction with the refusal on the ground that the matter is merely descriptive. It has been said that a generic term is “the ultimate in descriptiveness.” H. Marvin Ginn Corp. v. Int'l Ass’n of Fire Chiefs, Inc., 782 F.2d 987, 989, 228 USPQ 528, 530 (Fed. Cir. 1986), quoting Weiss Noodle Co. v. Golden Cracknel & Specialty Co., 290 F.2d 845, 847, 129 USPQ 411, 413 (C.C.P.A. 1961).

If, on the other hand, the mark appears to be capable, the examining attorney should provide appropriate advice concerning a possible amendment to the Supplemental Register or assertion of a claim of acquired distinctiveness. See TMEP §1102.03 concerning ineligibility of the proposed mark in a §1(b) application for the Supplemental Register prior to filing an acceptable amendment to allege use under 15 U.S.C. §1051(c) or statement of use under 15 U.S.C. §1051(d). The examining attorney should also advise the applicant regarding any incapable portion of the mark for which a disclaimer would be required in connection with an amendment to the Supplemental Register or assertion of a claim of acquired distinctiveness. If the applicant responds by amending to the Supplemental Register or asserting acquired distinctiveness, but does not submit the disclaimer, the examining attorney must issue a nonfinal Office action. Prior to the applicant’s amendment, information regarding the disclaimer requirement is merely advisory. Failure to submit the disclaimer thus would constitute a new issue requiring a nonfinal Office action.

If the record is unclear as to whether the designation is capable of functioning as a mark, the examining attorney must refrain from giving any advisory statement. In general, the examining attorney should make every effort to apprise applicants as early as possible of the prospects for registration through appropriate amendments, if feasible. NOTE: A mark in a §66(a) application cannot be registered on the Supplemental Register under any circumstances. 15 U.S.C. §1141h(a)(4); 37 C.F.R. §§2.47(c) and 2.75(c).

If, in response to a first-action refusal under §2(e)(1), the applicant merely argues that the mark is registrable on the Principal Register without claiming acquired distinctiveness or amending to the Supplemental Register, the examining attorney must issue a final refusal under §2(e)(1), on the ground that the proposed mark is merely descriptive, if he or she is not persuaded by the applicant’s arguments.