September 2, 2022
A strong catchphrase can be a powerful branding tool. Catchphrases can help make a brand more recognizable and boost a company’s profile in the public eye. But can you trademark a catchphrase like you would an image or design? Fortunately, the answer is yes, a catchphrase may be trademarked by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). However, the catchphrase can only be trademarked for its use in connection with specific products and services. At Mindful Counsel, our dedicated trademark attorneys are prepared to help you protect your catchphrase through a trademark: contact us today at (480) 422-6246 to learn more.
A catchphrase is a recognizable phrase or expression that has become popular through regular use, either by a real person or a character in fiction. Catchphrases are often found in pop culture, such as “Come on down!” in the TV show the Price is Right or Bart Simpson’s “Eat my shorts!”
However, many companies have recognized that catchphrases can significantly improve their branding. An example of a marketing catchphrase would be Nike’s “Just Do It.” These branding catchphrases immediately remind consumers of the brand upon hearing the phrase. When used in a branding or marketing context, a catchphrase can be trademarked to ensure that no other business entities use it without permission.
A registered trademark offers legal protection for catchphrases and other forms of intellectual property that are used to identify particular goods or services in the marketplace. Once a catchphrase is successfully registered as a trademark, the owner receives exclusive rights to use the phrase in commerce. Trademark rights will only be granted if the catchphrase is distinctive and used in commerce.
Trademarks are used to identify the source of the product or service, so there is no protection against someone else merely using the phrase in a sentence. However, no one else may use the trademarked catchphrase as a way to profit from the sale of goods and services.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has specific rules for registering a trademark. These rules apply to catchphrases and all other forms of trademarks. Individuals who wish to trademark a catchphrase should be aware of the following rules:
Determining whether a catchphrase is eligible for trademark registration can be complicated. You can learn more about questions like “can you trademark a catchphrase?” by speaking with the experienced trademark lawyers at Mindful Counsel.
Individuals and businesses who believe they qualify should consider following these steps to trademark their catchphrase.
Applicants should make sure that their trademark is distinct enough to meet the USPTO requirements. An application to register a generic phrase as a trademark will be rejected.
Additionally, searching the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database should be one of the first steps. When searching, look for existing trademarks that are similar to the phrase itself and are also used in the same types of goods or services. For example, an application to trademark the phrase “The Happiest Place in the World” for use in the branding of an amusement park would likely be rejected due to too much similarity to Disney World’s “The Happiest Place on Earth.”
All trademark applications require a specific designation for “filing basis”, which is the reason the applicant should be entitled to trademark protection. There are two main filing basis designations:
The USPTO requires all applicants to select all relevant goods and services when registering a trademark. Choosing the correct class is vital, as an error will result in a rejected application. Applicants should choose the class that applies to the products that will bear the catchphrase. For example, if the phrase will be used on T-shirts, the correct choice would be Class 25 – Clothing, Footwear, and Headgear.
The USPTO charges filing fees for each class of goods and services in a trademark application. Certain classes carry a $250 fee, while others are $350 per class. After you have ensured that your application is completely accurate and meets all USPTO requirements, submit it along with the necessary fees.
Business entities that have valuable catchphrases should take the necessary steps to protect this intellectual property. Registering a trademark ensures that only the owner may profit from the use of the catchphrase in connection to particular goods and services. However, successfully registering a trademark can be an arduous process. This is why many applicants seek legal guidance from an experienced attorney. At Mindful Counsel, our experienced trademark attorneys are prepared to answer questions like “can you trademark a catchphrase?” and other trademark concerns. Contact us at (480) 422-6246 or schedule a consultation to learn more.
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