Surname Trademarks

Section 2(e)(4) of the Lanham Act imposes the following notable restriction upon the registrability of a trademark that is primarily a surname, i.e. last name:

No trademark by which the goods of the applicant may be distinguished from the goods of others shall be refused registration on the principal register on account of its nature unless it—

(e) Consists of a mark which

(4) is primarily merely a surname

Determining whether a particular term is "primarily merely a surname" depends upon the primary meaning of the term in the eyes of the general public.

The following five (5) factors can be determinative, per the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board ("TTAB"), in a particular case:

  1. Whether the surname is rare;
  2. Whether the term is connected with the owner of the mark;
  3. Whether the term has any other recognized meaning;
  4. Whether the term has the "look and feel" of a surname; and
  5. Whether the stylization of lettering is distinctive enough to create a separate commercial impression

This brief overview of some important considerations associated with federal trademarks is by no means comprehensive. Always seek the advice of a competent professional when making important financial and legal decisions.

Federal Trademark AttorneySteve Cook is a trademark lawyer at Cook & Cook. Although his main office is located in Mesa, Arizona, he firm represents clients throughout the United States.

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