TMEP 1301.02(a): Matter that Does Not Function as a Service Mark

This is the October 2015 Edition of the TMEP

Previous: §1301.02 | Next: §1301.02(b)

1301.02(a)    Matter that Does Not Function as a Service Mark

To function as a service mark, a designation must be used in a manner that would be perceived by purchasers as identifying and distinguishing the source of the services recited in the application.

Use of a designation or slogan to convey advertising or promotional information, rather than to identify and indicate the source of the services, is not service mark use. See In re Standard Oil Co., 275 F.2d 945, 125 USPQ 227 (C.C.P.A. 1960) (GUARANTEED STARTING found to be ordinary words that convey information about the services, not a service mark for the services of “winterizing” motor vehicles); In re Melville Corp., 228 USPQ 970 (TTAB 1986) (BRAND NAMES FOR LESS found to be informational phrase that does not function as a mark for retail store services); In re Brock Residence Inns, Inc., 222 USPQ 920 (TTAB 1984) (FOR A DAY, A WEEK, A MONTH OR MORE so highly descriptive and informational in nature that purchasers would be unlikely to perceive it as an indicator of the source of hotel services); In re Wakefern Food Corp., 222 USPQ 76 (TTAB 1984) (WHY PAY MORE found to be a common commercial phrase that does not serve to identify grocery store services); In re Gilbert Eiseman, P.C., 220 USPQ 89 (TTAB 1983) (IN ONE DAY not used as source identifier but merely as a component of advertising matter that conveyed a characteristic of applicant’s plastic surgery services); In re European-American Bank & Trust Co., 201 USPQ 788 (TTAB 1979) (slogan THINK ABOUT IT found to be an informational or instructional phrase that would not be perceived as a mark for banking services); In re Restonic Corp., 189 USPQ 248 (TTAB 1975) (phrase used merely to advertise goods manufactured and sold by applicant’s franchisees does not serve to identify franchising services). Cf. In re Post Props., Inc., 227 USPQ 334 (TTAB 1985) (the designation QUALITY SHOWS, set off from text of advertising copy in extremely large typeface and reiterated at the conclusion of the narrative portion of the ad, held to be a registrable service mark for applicant’s real estate management and leasing services, because it was used in a way that made a commercial impression separate from that of the other elements of advertising material upon which it was used, such that the designation would be recognized by prospective customers as a source identifier). See also TMEP §1202.04 regarding informational matter that does not function as a trademark.

A term that is used only to identify a product, device, or instrument sold or used in the performance of a service rather than to identify the service itself does not function as a service mark. See In re Moody’s Investors Serv. Inc., 13 USPQ2d 2043 (TTAB 1989) (“Aaa,” as used on the specimen, found to identify the applicant’s ratings instead of its rating services); In re Niagara Frontier Servs., Inc., 221 USPQ 284 (TTAB 1983) (WE MAKE IT, YOU BAKE IT only identifies pizza, and does not function as a service mark to identify grocery store services); In re British Caledonian Airways Ltd., 218 USPQ 737 (TTAB 1983) (term that identifies a seat in the first-class section of an airplane does not function as mark for air transportation services); In re Editel Prods., Inc., 189 USPQ 111 (TTAB 1975) (MINI-MOBILE identifies only a vehicle used in rendering services and does not serve to identify the production of television videotapes for others); In re Oscar Mayer & Co., 171 USPQ 571 (TTAB 1971) (WIENERMOBILE does not function as mark for advertising and promoting the sale of wieners, where it is used only to identify a vehicle used in rendering claimed services).

Similarly, a term that only identifies a process, style, method, or system used in rendering the services is not registrable as a service mark, unless it is also used to identify and distinguish the service. See TMEP §1301.02(e) and cases cited therein.

A term that only identifies a menu item does not function as a mark for restaurant services. In re El Torito Rest. Inc., 9 USPQ2d 2002 (TTAB 1988).

The name or design of a character or person does not function as a service mark, unless it identifies and distinguishes the services in addition to identifying the character or person. See TMEP §1301.02(b) and cases cited therein.

A term used only as a trade name is not registrable as a service mark. See In re The Signal Companies, 228 USPQ 956 (TTAB 1986) (journal advertisement submitted as specimen showed use of ONE OF THE SIGNAL COMPANIES merely as an informational slogan, where words appeared only in small, subdued typeface underneath the address and telephone number of applicant’s subsidiary). See TMEP §1202.01 for additional information about matter used solely as a trade name.

Matter that is merely ornamental in nature does not function as a service mark. See In re Tad’s Wholesale, Inc., 132 USPQ 648 (TTAB 1962) (wallpaper design not registrable as a service mark for restaurant services). See TMEP §§1202.03 et seq. for additional information about ornamentation.

See TMEP §1202.02(a)(vii) regarding functionality and service marks, and TMEP §1202.02(b)(ii) regarding trade dress.