807.14(c) Addition or Deletion of Punctuation
Punctuation, such as quotation marks, hyphens, periods, commas, and exclamation marks, generally does not significantly alter the commercial impression of the mark. See, e.g., In re Litehouse, Inc., 82 USPQ2d 1471, 1474 (TTAB 2007) and cases cited therein (finding the mark CAESAR!CAESAR! to be merely descriptive and noting that "neither the mere repetition of the word CAESAR... nor the presence of the exclamation points in the mark, nor both of these features combined, suffices to negate the mere descriptiveness of the mark as a whole"); see also In re Promo Ink, 78 USPQ2d 1301, 1305 (TTAB 2006) (finding the mark PARTY AT A DISCOUNT! to be merely descriptive, specifically noting that "[t]his punctuation mark does not significantly change the commercial impression of the mark. It would simply emphasize the descriptive nature of the mark to prospective purchasers...").
However, in rare cases, punctuation may be incorporated into a mark in such a way that the commercial impression of the mark would be changed by the addition or deletion of such punctuation. See In re Guitar Straps Online LLC, 103 USPQ2d 1745, 1748 (TTAB 2012) (finding "the proposed addition of a question mark to the mark ‘GOT STRAPS’ constitutes a material alteration because it changes the commercial impression of the original mark from a declaratory statement to an interrogative phrase"); Richards-Wilcox Mfg. Co., 181 USPQ 735 (Comm’r Pats. 1974), overruled on other grounds, In re Umax Data Sys., Inc., 40 USPQ2d 1539 (Comm'r Pats. 1996) (proposed change of FYE[R-W]ALL and design to FYER-WALL in block letters denied as material alteration, in part, because brackets changed commercial impression of mark as the initial letters of applicant’s name, "R" and "W," were no longer emphasized). For example, unlike most cases where the addition of an exclamation point does not affect the commercial impression of a mark, the addition of an exclamation point to the mark MOVE IT transforms the words from a mere command to relocate an object to an exclamatory statement with more than one meaning – MOVE IT! – often used to order a person out of the way, and, therefore, changes the commercial impression of the mark.
Some other examples, though not exhaustive, are:
- the addition or deletion of a question mark, which changes a statement into a question or vice versa ( see In re Guitar Straps Online, 103 USPQ2d at 1748);
- the addition or deletion of spaces between the syllables of a term, which may change the commercial impression created by the separate syllables or the unitary word; and
- the addition or deletion of a period before the term ".com," which can change wording to or from a website address.
See also TMEP §807.12(a)(i)–(iii) regarding the role of punctuation in determining whether the mark on the drawing agrees with the mark on the specimen.