What is Section 2(a) Refusal - Disparagement, Scandalousness, Immorality, or Deceptiveness?

Photo of Tomas Orsula

Written by Tomas Orsula

Senior Trademark Attorney

A Section 2(a) refusal occurs when the USPTO refuses to register a trademark due to the mark being "disparaging, scandalous, immoral, or deceptive."

Overcoming a Section 2(a) refusal can be challenging, but the difficulty largely depends on the specific circumstances of your trademark and the grounds for refusal. Some of the strategies can include:

  • Amending the mark and removing the offensive element, if possible,
  • Providing arguments showing the mark is not disparaging, scandalous, immoral, or deceptive, which may involve presenting facts or expert opinions to counter the USPTO's concerns,
  • Submitting consent of the affected individual or group stating the mark is not disparaging to them,
  • Submitting consent of an individual, group or institution for the use of the mark if the examiner uses the deceptiveness claim to argue the mark is "falsely suggesting a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols",
  • Proving the transformative nature or secondary meaning of the mark.

Before choosing the best course of action, it's important to understand the contents of your office action. A trademark attorney can help you go through the USPTO's concerns, lay down your options, and help you prepare a proper response.

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