New Rights to Trademark Generic Brands

On Monday, the Supreme Court issued an opinion that drastically changes the landscape of trademark law. Businesses use trademarks to protect a brand from being confusingly similar to other brands. Strong trademarks also encourage consumers to trust certain trademarks over others. For instance, reportedly 65% of single men buy Tide detergent because that was the detergent their mothers used.

One of the main criteria for a trademark is that it cannot be generic or merely descriptive. For example, the brand “Bob’s Cleaning” for a person named Bob who runs a cleaning business would likely have been denied by the United States Patent Trademark Office for being generic or merely descriptive.

In United States Patent and Trademark Office v., the Supreme Court decided that, the well-known travel website, is not a generic name and thus can be trademarked. The court reasoned that adding “.com” to a generic term makes it not generic because web domains are
unique, and only one business can occupy a domain at given time.

This opinion emphasized the importance of domains, and it may further encourage domain squatters, which is an issue our clients routinely face. We can assist you if you have any questions about trademarks, how to leverage trademarks to grow your business, how to make a strong trademark, or other legal and business concerns around branding and domains.

Dan Kramer