TMEP 1402.01(a): General Guidelines for Acceptable Identifications of Goods or Services

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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1402.01(a)    General Guidelines for Acceptable Identifications of Goods or Services

With few exceptions, an identification of goods and services will be considered acceptable if it:

  • Describes the goods and/or services so that an English speaker could understand what the goods and/or services are, even if the grammar or phrasing is not optimal;
  • Meets the standards (not necessarily the language) set forth in the ID Manual;
  • Is not a class heading; and
  • Is in the correct class, i.e., there is no language in the identification that makes classification difficult or ambiguous; each class lists goods or services that are clearly in a single class.

Deference should be given to the language set forth by the applicant in the original application.

If an identification contains spelling errors, the examining attorney must require correction.  Obvious spelling errors in an identification may be corrected by examiner’s amendment without contacting the applicant. See TMEP §707.02.  However, British English variants of American English spellings (e.g., colour, vapour, and organise) are acceptable and need not be changed.

In general, commas should be used in the identification to separate items within a particular category of goods or services.  When the items are preceded by the word "namely," a comma should always be used before and after that term.  For example, "clothing, namely, hats, caps, sweaters, and jeans" is an acceptable identification of goods in Class 25 and shows proper use of commas. For additional information on the use of "namely" in an identification, see TMEP §1402.03(a).

Semicolons should generally be used to separate distinct categories of goods or services within a single class.  For example, "cleaners, namely, glass cleaners, oven cleaners, and carpet cleaners; deodorants for pets" is an acceptable identification in Class 3.  In this example, the word "cleaners" names the category covering "glass cleaners, oven cleaners, and carpet cleaners."  The semicolon prior to "deodorants for pets" indicates that the deodorants are a separate category of goods from the cleaners. See In re Midwest Gaming & Entm’t LLC, 106 USPQ2d 1163, 1166 (TTAB 2013) (finding that, because a semicolon separated the two relevant clauses in registrant’s identification, its "restaurant and bar services" is a discrete category of services that stands alone and independently as a basis for likelihood-of-confusion analysis, and is not connected to nor dependent on the services set out on the other side of the semicolon).

Care should be taken to use commas and semicolons properly when identifying items that are part of a kit or system.  In general, items that are to be sold together (e.g., as components of a system or kit) should be separated by commas.  However, other goods within the same class that are to be sold independently of the kit or system should be separated by semicolons.  This is an exception to the general rule regarding using semicolons to separate categories of goods.  Here, the semicolons are used to separate items that in a non-kit or non-system identification would be separated by commas.  For example, an identification that includes kits comprised of several items, as well as other goods sold independently from the kits, should be punctuated as follows: "nail care kits comprised of nail polish, nail polish remover, false nails, nail files, and printed instructions; nail glitter; body art stickers."  The use of "and" before "printed instructions" indicates that the "printed instructions" are the final items contained in the kit.  The use of semicolons indicates that "nail glitter" and "body art stickers" are separate items and are not included in the nail care kits.

Commas, semicolons, and apostrophes are the only punctuation that should be included in an identification. Other punctuation, such as colons, question marks, exclamation points, and periods should not be used in an identification. In addition, symbols, such as asterisks (*), at symbols (@), or carets (^), should not be included in the identification.