A trademark specimen is a real-world example of your brand being used to identify your goods or services (e.g., a photograph of a t-shirt with your brand name on the inside label). To qualify for federal trademark protection, you must use your mark in interstate commerce. Your specimen is your evidence that you qualify for trademark protection. It is very important, therefore, that you submit a valid specimen. Not including a specimen when your trademark application is filed could lead to the validity of your trademark being challenged down the road.

Note: To protect a brand that you plan to use in the future, you may file an intent-to-use application with the USPTO. This gives you additional time before you are required to submit a specimen.

1. What is an acceptable trademark specimen?

The USPTO typically accepts the following specimens for goods (products):

  • A photograph of the product showing the mark directly on the product (e.g., the bottom of a coffee mug)
  • Product packaging showing the mark (e.g., detergent soap packaging)
  • Signage used in a product display at a store (e.g., a photograph of the display)
  • A webpage showing or describing the product near the mark and with purchasing information (e.g., a webpage showing a photograph of a computer laptop, the mark for the laptop appearing above the photograph, the price appearing below the photograph, and a shopping cart button/link appearing on the page)
  • For downloadable software, copies of the instruction manual and screen printouts from (1) web pages showing the mark in connection with ordering or purchasing information or information sufficient to download the software, (2) the actual program that shows the mark in the title bar, or (3) launch screens that show the mark in an introductory message box that appears after opening the program

The USPTO typically accepts the following specimens for services:

  • Print or Internet advertising*
  • Brochures and leaflets*
  • Menus for restaurants
  • Business cards and letterhead*
  • Marketing and promotional materials*
  • A photograph of business signage and billboards*
  • A photograph of a musical band performing with the band’s name displayed during the performance (e.g., on the band’s drum)

*Specimens consisting of advertising, marketing, and/or promotional materials must show a direct association between the mark and the services.  However, if your mark itself references the services, the specimen would show a sufficient direct association (e.g., ABC MEDICAL for a medical clinic).

The above lists were taken directly from the USPTO’s website. For more information and to view examples of acceptable and unacceptable trademark specimens, see section 904 et seq. of the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure.

2. What do I do if my specimen is rejected?

If you receive an Office action letter from the USPTO rejecting your specimen, don’t panic! In most cases, these matters can be resolved by simply substituting a valid specimen. If you would like to have one of DBL’s experienced attorneys assist you with your trademark application, please contact us.

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Posted in: Intellectual Property - Trademarks, Trademark

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