Choosing a business name that you can protect with a trademark is crucial to own and protect your brand, but finding the right name can be hard. Knowing what kind of names the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) likely won’t let you trademark can help to narrow down the choices and increase your chances of a successful application.
Here are the main reasons the USPTO rejects trademark applications:
Likelihood of Confusion
The main reason: “likelihood of confusion” with an existing trademark. A likelihood of confusion exists when there is a business using a similar mark and provides similar products and/or services as yours. The USPTO will reject your trademark if people would mistakenly believe your products and services come from a different business, and vice versa. So, make sure no one else is using a similar name in your industry!
- For example, if a flower shop named “Blossoming Day Flowers” is already protected by a trademark, you probably wouldn’t be able to trademark a flower shop named “Blossoming Flowers.”
Names that only use common words that describe what you do or where you’re geographically located aren’t distinct and the USPTO will likely reject them. Your business is unique, so your name should be unique as well! For example:
- For example, a coffee shop named “Joe’s Coffee Shop”, “Morning Coffee Cafe”, or “The Grande Latte” would not be able to secure a trademark because, again, those are just common words that describe a coffee shop’s goods and services.
- Similarly, names like “Seattle Coffee” or “Washington Coffee” likely won’t work either because they just describe where you’re geographically located, and you typically can’t trademark the name of a location alone. Of course, there are workarounds with enough time and capital, like “Seattle’s Best Coffee.”
Your trademark for your business name will be much stronger (and easier to register) if you use words that are unrelated to your products or services, including made-up words. Continuing our coffee shop hypothetical:
- Names like “Coffeelicious”, “Garden Wall Cafe”, and “Midnight Moon Coffee” are stronger because they use either made-up words or words that are unrelated to your products and services. In addition, the more original your name, the less likely someone else will also be using it!
But remember: Even if you come up with a really clever or catchy name, there’s still a chance that someone may be using it already. Always reach out to a trademark attorney so they can make sure you’re not in danger of infringing on someone else’s trademarks.
Other Rejection Reasons to Consider
It’s worth noting that the USPTO has also rejected trademarks that are offensive, use the title of books or movies, are translations of generic words into other languages, or are surnames. If you choose a name that tiptoes the line for any of these gray areas, make sure to consult with your trademark attorney before moving forward with it. Better safe than sorry!
- For example, names like “Fellowship of the Ring Coffee”, “La Cafetería” (Spanish for “Coffee Shop”), and “Smith’s” likely won’t do!
A Virgo Law ® attorney would love to help you with any questions you may have about choosing a business name that you can protect with a trademark! Complete our intake form to begin working with an attorney.