Trademark with non-English wording or non-Latin characters

A US trademark application for foreign wording must contain an English translation of the non-English wording (see MPEP Section 809). Three exceptions to this trademark translation rule include:

  1. Foreign term appears in an English dictionary (e.g., croissant or fiesta);
  2. Foreign articles or prepositions when combined with English terms (e.g., “de,” “le,” “la,” or “il”).  For example, if applying for “LE CASE,” it would be unnecessary to translate “LE”; or
  3. Words from dead or obscure languages determined on a case-by-case basis. For example, Latin is generally considered dead, but certain Latin terms might still be in use and recognized by the relevant purchasing public.

Can you register a trademark with foreign characters?

If the trademark includes non-Latin characters (e.g., Chinese characters), then the applicant must provide both a translation and a transliteration which is a pronunciation of the wording. A transliteration consists of Latin characters to pronounce the mark (i.e., how would you spell the pronunciation of the mark in English?).

For example, the following statement in the TMEP provides a transliteration and a translation:

The non-Latin characters in the mark transliterate to Asahi and this means “Rising Sun” in English.

How will the Trademark Office examine marks with non-English wording?

The USPTO will examine a US trademark application with foreign wording according to the English equivalent of the foreign words according to TMEP § 809. Therefore, foreign wording will not easily make a mark registrable simply because of the fact that the mark, or a portion thereof, is not in English. The trademark examining attorney will examine the English equivalent of the foreign words for purposes of determining issues such as mere descriptiveness, likelihood of confusion, disclaimer requirement, etc.

Applicants considering must consider the meaning of the foreign wording in relation to the goods or services. Furthermore, trademark owners should also consider a knockout search of English equivalents to the foreign wording.

The following two tabs change content below.

Vic Lin

Startup Patent Attorney | IP Lead Partner at Innovation Capital Law Group
We align ourselves with Davids fighting Goliaths. Our registered patent attorneys work as a team to equip startups and founders with solid IP rights that facilitate funding, growth and sales. Email or call us so we can get to work on your IP: (949) 223-9623 | vlin@icaplaw.com