Businesses often want to trademark a phrase or slogan that is commonly used in their business. However, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) will refuse to register a phrase/slogan unless it functions as a trademark. A trademark must identify a source of the goods. A phrase does not function as a trademark when consumers take the phrase at its ordinary meaning. The USPTO is increasing its scrutiny of phrases; there have been several recent decisions by the Trademark Trial & Appeal Board (TTAB) affirming a refusal to register a trademark because it failed to function as a trademark. Two recent trademark cases are discussed below: (1) GOD BLESS THE USA, and (2) TEXAS LOVE.
GOD BLESS THE USA Does Not Function As A Trademark
Recently, Lee Greenwood, famous for his song “God Bless the USA” tried to register the phrase GOD BLESS THE USA for pillows, centerpieces, and wall hangings. The registration was refused because the phrase GOD BLESS THE USA does not function as a trademark. The TTAB found evidence of widespread use of the phrase by many others. This widespread use by others made it unlikely that the public would perceive the phrase as identifying that Lee Greenwood was the source of the goods. Therefore, registration was refused, and Mr. Greenwood did not get his trademark.
TEXAS LOVE Does Not Function As A Trademark
Similarly, another TTAB decision held that TEXAS LOVE failed to function as a trademark because the phrase was the expression of a concept, was widely used by third parties, and would not be perceived as an indicator of the source of the trademark applicant’s goods. In this case, the trademark applicant wanted to register TEXAS LOVE for clothing and hats. The trademark examining attorney found evidence of widespread use of this phrase, and refused registration. The TTAB upheld this refusal even though there were other similar registered trademarks: e.g. FLORIDA LOVE (for clothing), CALIFORNIA LOVE (for beer), SOUTHERN LOVE (for a retail store), and others. Although the USPTO had allowed these common phrases to be registered as trademarks, that did not matter in the case of TEXAS LOVE. Each case is examined independently. And in this case, the evidence showed widespread use of the phrase by others. Therefore, the phrase TEXAS LOVE was refused registration because consumers would not understand that the applicant was the source of the goods.
This is a short explanation about whether a slogan may be used as a trademark. Contact Adams Law Office if you have questions about obtaining a trademark.
This blog is made available by Adams Law Office for educational purposes only. It is intended to convey general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. The blog discusses the state of law at the time of writing. Later events or case law may change the law and/or the analysis. This blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney as applied to the facts of your circumstances.