TMEP 1402.03(b): House Marks

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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1402.03(b)    House Marks

House marks do not identify the particular goods or services – rather, they identify the provider of a wide variety of goods or services, with such goods or services often themselves identified by a separate trademark or service mark. Marks of this type are often used in the chemical, pharmaceutical, publishing, and food industries. A good or service may bear both a trademark or service mark and a house mark.

Example: A pharmaceutical manufacturer, XYZ Laboratories Corp., may sell a particular pharmaceutical preparation for a cough syrup under the product mark "FORMULA M" and also feature the house mark "XYZ LABS" on the packaging for the goods. XYZ may also use the same house mark on the packaging of its other pharmaceutical preparations to indicate that all such goods come from a common source.

Example: A financial-investment company, XYZ Investors, may provide a particular stock-brokerage service under the service mark ABC FUND and also feature the house mark "XYZ" on advertising for the services. XYZ Investors may also use the same house mark on advertising for its other financial-investment services to indicate that all such services come from a common source.

In an application for registration of a house mark, the identification of goods or services may include wording such as "a house mark for...."  As with other applications, these applications must define the type of goods or services with sufficient particularity to permit proper classification, in accordance with the international classification system, and to enable the USPTO to make necessary determinations under §2(d) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(d). See TMEP §1401.02(a).

In an application to register a mark as a house mark based on use in commerce, the applicant must demonstrate that the mark is, in fact, used as a house mark.  Therefore, the examining attorney must require that the applicant provide evidence showing broad use of the mark to substantiate this claim. See 37 C.F.R. §2.61(b).  For example, an applicant seeking registration for a house mark for goods may provide catalogs or similar evidence showing use of the mark as a house mark. An applicant seeking registration for a house mark for services may provide a variety of advertising materials or web pages showing use of the mark as a house mark.

An intent-to-use applicant who wishes to register a mark as a house mark must clearly indicate its intention to register the mark as a house mark during initial examination, and the circumstances must establish that the applicant’s proposed use of the mark as a house mark is credible.  The nature of the mark and the capacity of the applicant to use the mark as asserted should be considered in determining whether the claim that the mark is to be used as a house mark is credible.  If the applicant indicates such an intention, the examining attorney should advise the applicant that, upon filing of the allegation of use, the applicant will be required to provide evidence to substantiate use as a house mark. 37 C.F.R. §2.61(b).

The USPTO will register a mark as a house mark only when evidence shows sufficient use as a house mark.  Therefore, if an applicant seeks to register a house mark in an application under any basis, including §44 or §66(a) of the Trademark Act, the examining attorney must require evidence that the mark is in fact used as a house mark.  This is not a requirement for specimens, but rather a requirement that applicant provide evidence to substantiate the claim of use as a house mark. 37 C.F.R. §2.61(b).  If the applicant cannot do so, the identification of goods or services must be amended to remove the indication "a house mark for" and the remaining wording must comply with the requirements for sufficient specificity as to such goods or services.

If an applicant further indicates that its "house mark" is to be used "for a full line" of products or services, the examining attorney must review both the nature of use of the mark as a house mark as well as the acceptability of the claim of "a full line" by considering the specimens or other evidence of record. See TMEP §1402.03(c) for the requirements for identifications for a "full line of" products. If the record does not support use of the "house mark" on a sufficient number or variety of products or services in its line, the examining attorney may require applicant to provide evidence in support of a "full line" or amend the identification to identify the goods/services with the requisite specificity.

Example: The identification specifies "a house mark for a full line of building paints." The examining attorney must review the specimen and any other evidence of record to determine (1) whether the mark is being used as a house mark rather than a trademark and (2) whether the mark is used on a sufficient number or variety of products (e.g., interior paints, exterior paints, house paints, floor paints, etc.) to substantiate use for a full line. If the record does not support both use as a house mark and use on a sufficient variety of products, the examining attorney may require applicant to provide additional evidence in support of applicant’s claims of the mark being both "a house mark" and for "a full line." In the alternative, the applicant may amend the goods to remove the indication "a house mark for a full line" and identify the goods with further specificity.

Example: The identification specifies "a house mark for transportation services for goods." The examining attorney must review the specimen and any other evidence of record to determine whether the mark is being used as a house mark rather than a service mark. If the record does not support use as a house mark for the services, the examining attorney may require applicant to provide additional evidence in support of applicant’s claim. In the alternative, the applicant may amend the services to remove the indication "a house mark for" and identify the "transportation services" with further specificity.