Thursday, March 20, 2008

Viva Las Vegas

I've got Vegas on the brain as I'll be heading out that way tomorrow. As a result, the blog posts won't be happening again until next week when I come back, hopefully with a little more jingle jangle in my pockets.

So I thought I'd use Las Vegas as an inspiration point to check out some of the more interesting Vegas-tinged trademarks:

Dave's Fabulous Las Vegas Barbecue Sauce
. The logo is a take off on the famous Las Vegas sign.

Erotic Suite Palms Las Vegas. The suite features a dancer's pole, a round bed & a $4000 per night cost.

What happens in VEGAS...Ends up on the Internet...
is currently being opposed by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority based on their filing of What Happens Here, Stays Here, which is suspended pending the disposition of What Happens in Vegas Does Not Always Stay in Vegas & 2 marks for What Happens Here, Stays Here, which is the LV Convention & Visitors Authority mark.

Looking further into these marks is a bit like Alice falling into the rabbit hole:

What Happens in VEGAS...Ends up on the Internet is being opposed by What Happens Here, Stays Here, which is suspended pending the outcome of their other filing for What Happens Here, Stays Here, which is suspended pending the outcome of What Happens in Vegas Does Not Always Stay in Vegas AND their 2 other marks for What Happens Here, Stays Here, which is suspending pending the outcome of What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas, which is currently being opposed by...dun dun dun the owner of What Happens Here, Stays Here. PHEW, get all that?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Refusal on Basis of Ornamentation

I've devoted a few posts to the subject of trademarks and clothing lines but it wasn't until I was talking with a client yesterday that I realized I had answered the what but not the why.

I was explaining to the client that submitting a picture of a t-shirt with his clothing line name on the front would not suffice as proof of use for the USPTO. He then asked me why. After getting off the phone, I realized that while I had answered him I hadn't fully addressed it here.

The title of this post is the response you'd likely get from the USPTO if you submit a photo of a t-shirt with your name and/or logo displayed on the front.

What does refusal on basis of ornamentation mean exactly?

"Subject matter that is merely a decorative feature does not identify and distinguish the applicant’s goods and, thus, does not function as a trademark. A decorative feature may include words, designs, slogans or other trade dress. This matter should be refused registration because it is merely ornamentation and, therefore, does not function as a trademark"

Okay, let's explain that using non-legalese language. When an
in use USPTO application is submitted, a specimen must also be filed.

For clothing, a lot of folks make the guess that submitting a picture of one of their t-shirts with the name on the front will work. And that does seem to make a lot of sense. But when it comes to trademarks, you've got to "identify and distinguish" your name to your clothing.

This means that your name must be on a tag or a label that'd be attached to a garment that
identifies it as being the name of the line itself & not just part of the overall artwork applied to the front of the shirt.

If you've got a clothing line & aren't sure what would work as a specimen, feel free to email me at & I'd be happy to go over your specific details with you.

Monday, March 17, 2008

How Slow Can the PTO Go?

I had intended the post for today to be a follow-up to these 2 posts:

O Romeo, Romeo & When Applications Go Wrong.

To sum up, these posts were about potential problems for the applications of Romeo & for La Bella Bella Maternity. And my intention had been to compare my predictions with how the USPTO interpreted the applications.

However, both of these applications have yet to be assigned to an examining attorney. Romeo filed on January 4th, which means it's been 72 days. La Bella Belly Maternity filed on January 17th, which means it's been 59 days.

Now, it's not news that the USPTO takes awhile to get things moving. But this lag in movement does go to show how vital it is to ensure that the name is legally available prior to filing.

Both of these marks have the potential of being refused for likelihood of confusion. Should that be the case, the USPTO will let the applicant know by way of an Office Action. Now, if either of these marks have to undergo a name change...well, that could've been avoided had research been completed first. Undergoing a name change months after time, effort & money has already been poured into a name is frustrating to say the least.

I'll devote another post to these 2 marks once their applications have moved to the next stage.

Monday, March 10, 2008

McCain Winning '08 Presidential Trademark Race

The presidential race is heating up and with any flurry of political activity comes an influx of trademarks hoping to capitalize on the nation's interest.

John McCain 2008 - The Exploratory Committee currently has two Federal trademarks, one registered & one pending, for "McCain Space" and "McCain." These applications were filed in January 2007 for, among other things, "promoting the public awareness of a candidate for election." A month later, Senator McCain announced on Late Show with David Letterman that he was seeking the nomination. It appears the trademarks were a harbinger of things to come.

Senator Clinton has been in the news recently about her use of "Solutions for America," which is a trademarked phrase owned by the University of Richmond. According to an article by Scott Jacshik of Inside Higher Ed, the university has "refused to answer any question about why the institution’s
trademarked slogan was being used by the Clinton campaign and whether she had permission to do so."

Obama for America does have a
pending Federal trademark for the logo associated with Senator Obama's campaign. The 9 different classes include such varied goods/services as golf balls, clothing, lapel pins, water bottles, fundraising, etc.

There are a number of sadly rejected trademark applications using some variation of a candidate's name. The refusals from the USPTO were "because the mark consists of or comprises matter which may falsely suggest a connection with the individual [candidate's name]."

Some examples of dead trademarks include "No Drama with Obama," "Hillary Clinton is Politically Incorrect" and "Bearack Obama."

Easily the most interesting, albeit confusing, is the filing for 08AMA for items like posters, campaign buttons, shirts, etc. What's puzzling is that the applicant does not seem to be affiliated with the Senator Obama campaign but rather is owned by FTK, a clothing store in Fresno, CA. The USPTO did question the applicant about the letters AMA, in particular if there was any significance as it pertained to the industry and/or goods listed on the application. The applicant responded that no significance existed, which the USPTO accepted. 08AMA is poised to become a Federally registered trademark.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

®, Registered vs. TM, Trademark

The TM or SM symbol is to be used for marks that either have a pending trademark applicationclaiming the rights to the mark.

The ® symbol is to be used for marks that have a Federally registered trademark.

Trademarks can be names of products or services, logos, slogans, packaging and even sounds and smells. In essence, a trademark can be almost anything that is used to identify a particular product or service. Registering a trademark grants the owner exclusive rights to the mark within the specified industry. Of course, it's necessary to
research the mark comprehensively

Proper Use of the Symbols:

You can freely use the TM or SM symbol while your application is pending OR if you're simply claiming the rights to the name. Sometimes these symbols are governed by local or state laws so it may be best to double check. But more often than not, you're free to use it.

e ® symbol should only be used once you've received your Federal trademark registration. The typical placement for these symbols is in the right-hand corner/to the right of your name and/or logo. For instance, TradeMark Express ® or as displayed on our home page:

Trademark vs. Service Mark

Simply put,
trademarks are for goods while service marks are for services. When discussing either, it is common to use the term "trademark", even when discussing a service use, because the handling of either is interchangeable by both the USPTO and all 50 Secretary of State Offices.

The USPTO says that a "service mark is the same as a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. The terms 'trademark' and 'mark' are often used to refer to both trademarks and service marks."

Let's look at each term in more detail


The USPTO's definition: trademark "protect words, names, symbols, sounds, or colors that distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods."

If your name and/or logo appear on the tangible goods that you're selling, you'd be filing for a trademark. For instance, let's say you want to protect the name of your clothing line. As long as the name appears on the hang tag, label or the packaging the clothes come in, that would suffice as proof of you using the name in connection with a clothing line. And therefore, you'd file for a trademark.

If the name appears only on the front of the shirt, that's ornamental use and therefore not eligible for trademark protection.

Service Mark:

The USPTO's definition: service mark is "a word, name, symbol or device that is to indicate the source of the services and to distinguish them from the services of others."

If you're selling services in connection with a name and/or logo, you'd be filing for a service mark. TradeMark Express is our service mark that we use in connection with our trademark research & application services.

For example, you are opening a restaurant using a specific name. The name as it appears on any signage, menus, advertising, etc., would suffice as proof of your use in connection with your services.