A Trademark Must Be Tied to a Product or Service

Trademarks do not exist in a vacuum. A trademark must always be tied to particular goods or services offered or sold under the mark. You can’t trademark words in the abstract. So when you hear about a celebrity trademarking a phrase, the phrase or slogan must be used in offering a particular product or service. While there’s no limit to the number of goods or services that can be identified in an application, the cost of filing may increase with a greater number of goods/services as discussed below.

What are USPTO Trademark Classes?

The USPTO categories goods and services (for simplicity, I’ll refer to both as “products”) into 45 different classes for registration. These classifications help distinguish marks.  It is common for different companies to register the same mark for entirely different products categorized under different classes. For example, Company A might own a registration for the mark ABC covering tires while Company B owns the same mark for clothing. Even though both marks are ABC, they may coexist as federal registrations because they would not lead to any consumer confusion in the marketplace.

A trademark search of the USPTO database for potentially conflicting marks should place a heavier emphasis on the particular class under which the relevant goods or services fall. Keep in mind, however, that products in one class may overlap with those in another. For example, the USPTO may reject a mark for a food or beverage product because it’s too similar to a mark registered for restaurant services.

Software, mobile applications and web products face a similar issue. While computer software is typically categorized under class 9, such a product may overlap with websites under class 35, messaging or telecommunications under class 38, or online social networking under Class 45. Other classes may be involved for web products depending upon the content.

It’s worth mentioning that famous marks may be afforded protection that goes beyond the particular classes under which they’re registered. Since trademarks are meant to indicate the source of a product, it’s not hard to imagine that confusion may arise if someone were to attempt to use and register a famous mark for a completely new product category. Consumers might incorrectly assume some kind of affiliation with the famous brand or that the famous brand is expanding into new lines products.

How to Identify Goods and Services Properly

The USPTO has provided a searchable Trademark ID Manual so that applicants can use pre-approved descriptions in drafting the identification of goods and services. Using properly crafted descriptions of goods and services upfront minimizes delay and avoids non-substantive Office Actions requiring modifications.

How are USPTO Trademark Filing Fees Determined?

USPTO trademark filing fees are determined by the number of trademark classes. That means there’s no extra cost to include several items if they all belong to one class. The same applies to USPTO fees for filing a Statement of Use in an Intent-To-Use application.

No Broadening Scope After Initial Filing

Special attention should be paid to drafting the identification of goods or services because the identification is practically frozen once the application is filed. You cannot add more goods or services to a previously filed application. You may possibly clarify certain items or itemize a broad description (e.g., specifying “kitchen accessories”). The general rule is that you cannot broaden the scope of an original identification of goods/services.

Any new items would have to be covered in a new trademark application.

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Vic Lin

Vic Lin

Startup Patent Attorney | IP Chair at Innovation Capital Law Group
We love working with startups and small businesses. I help entrepreneurs protect their intellectual property so they can reach their business goals.
Vic Lin

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