What does it mean when my trademark is refused due to "mere descriptiveness"?

Photo of Jan Buza

Written by Jan Buza

Co-founder of Trama

If your trademark application has been refused due to mere descriptiveness, it means the examiner at the USPTO has deemed your mark merely descriptive of the goods or services you intend to protect with your trademark.

To give you an example, the name SuperSoft for a brand producing blankets would be considered descriptive. Descriptive marks directly describe a quality, characteristic, function, or ingredient of the product or service. They are often considered less distinctive, which leads to them potentially facing challenges during the registration process.

Overcoming a merely descriptive refusal is challenging but not impossible. Some common strategies include proving the mark has already acquired distinctiveness through extensive use in commerce or that it has a secondary meaning the examiner didn't consider during the initial assessment.

Alternatively, the applicant may choose to amend the application to seek registration on the Supplemental Register, where the mark can be registered with some protection but not the same level of exclusivity as the Principal Register.

If you are not sure how to address the refusal, you can approach a trademark attorney for consultation and/or legal assistance. They can advise on the best course of action and help you take the necessary steps to save your trademark.

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