Geographically Descriptive Trademarks: Geographic terms are tricky to register but can link your product or services to a successful trait of your region. It may be a good time to call us for help!

Geographic terms: As a general rule, trademarks involving a geographical term are "weak" and are entitled to a narrow scope of protection. A mark that is composed entirely of a geographic term may be registrable only on the Supplemental Register or on the Principal Register upon proving acquired distinctiveness (that mark has become distinctive of that party's goods in commerce). A mark that is a composite of a geographic term and a distinctive term may be able to register on the Principal Register if the geographic term can be disclaimed and the remaining part of the composite term is distinctive.

Examples of weak geographic terms: AN INDIA VILLAGE for Textile Fabrics to be used in making men's shirts and sports coats, women's dresses, suits and shirts; men's and women's walk shorts and neckties would be subject to a limited scope of protection as a trademark. Methuen International Mills v. Rajinder Fabrics, Inc., 406 F.2d 1392 (C.C.P.A., 1969). The term `ANGLO' (meaning British) has a geographically descriptive connotation as applied to piece goods and articles of clothing and would subject to a limited scope of protection as a trademark unless it had acquired distinctiveness. Anglo Fabrics Company v. Fabriken Anglomac a/S, 282 F.Supp. 454 (D.D.C., 1968). DENVER WESTERNS is primarily geographically descriptive of western-style shirts that have their geographical origin in Denver. In re Handler Fenton Westerns, Inc., 214 USPQ 848 (TTAB 1982).

A potential trademark is geographically descriptive under Lanham Act Section 2(e)(2) if the term conveys to customers primarily or immediately geographical connotation, and the goods or services do in fact come from the place so named. If the mark in question is primarily geographically descriptive of goods or services, it may be registrable on Supplemental Register, or on Principal Register upon showing under Section 2(f) that mark has become distinctive of that party's goods in commerce. In re The Steel House, Inc., 206 USPQ 956 (TTAB 1980). An example of a mark that was not registrable because it was a geographically descriptive mark is DURANGO for chewing tobacco. In re Loew's Theatres, Inc., 226 USPQ 865 (Fed. Cir. 1985). Another example is the proposed service mark GRAND CANYON WEST that was found to be merely descriptive, and geographically descriptive since "Grand Canyon" describes fundamental purpose or object of identified services, and "West" simply identifies more precisely where applicant offers its services. Grand Canyon West Ranch LLC v. Hualapai Tribe, 88 USPQ2d 1501 (TTAB 2008)

A potential trademark is geographically misdescriptive under Lanham Act Section 2(e)(2) if the term conveys to customers primarily or immediately geographical connotation, and the goods or services do NOT in fact come from the place so named. If the geographical term for particular goods or services is deceptive because the geographic area is famous for some particular goods or services, the mark will not be registrable under either the Supplement Register or Principal Register even upon showing of acquired distinctiveness. If the geographic term for a particular goods or services is not deceptive but is still misdescriptive,  the mark may be registrable under either the Supplement Register or Principal Register upon showing of acquired distinctiveness. In re The Steel House, Inc., 206 USPQ 956 (TTAB 1980). An example of a geographically misdescriptive trademark is AMERICAN BEAUTY for sewing machines of Japanese manufacturer. Singer Manufacturing Co. v. Birginal-Bigsley Corp., 319 F.2d 273, 275, 138 USPQ 63, 65 (CCPA 1963). KUBA KUBA was found to be primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive of cigars, tobacco, and related products that did not originate in Cuba nor would they be made from Cuban seed tobacco. In re Jonathan Drew, Inc., 97 USPQ2d 1640 (TTAB 2011).

An example of a trademark that was NOT primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive is the LE MARAIS mark for restaurant services in New York is because the facts do not show that patrons would identify "Le Marais" Jewish neighborhood in Paris as source of services at applicant's restaurant in New York, and that such "services-place association" would be material factor in consumer's decision to patronize restaurant. In re Les Halles De Paris J.V., 67 USPQ2d 1539 (Fed. Cir. 2003)

A potential trademark is not geographically descriptive (is arbitrary) under Lanham Act Section 2(e)(2) if the trademark in question does not convey immediate or readily recognizable geographical significance to the average consumer. In re The Steel House, Inc., 206 USPQ 956 (TTAB 1980). An example of a mark that is geographic but not geographically descriptive or misdescriptive would be the term ALASKA applied to bananas. ALASKA is entirely arbitrary and would be registrable because reasonable people would not believe that bananas had their origin in Alaska. In re Handler Fenton Westerns, Inc., 214 USPQ 848 (TTAB 1982). Other arbitrary geographic marks are (as cited in In re Loew's Theatres, Inc., 226 USPQ 865 (Fed. Cir. 1985)(internal citations omitted) : DUTCH and DUTCH BOY for paint; HYDE PARK for men's suits; LA TOURAINE for coffee; and BRITTANIA for jeans.


To verify a potential trademark is strong, is available to use, and is ready to register, the process should be more than a direct hit federal search. To maximize the commercial strength and minimize the weaknesses of a trademark, we start with these five steps:

1) Verify Inherent Strength (this avoids merely descriptive, geographically descriptive, likelihood of confusion and other office actions),

2) Verify Right to Use, (this avoids likelihood of confusion refusal office actions and others)

3) Verify Right to Register, (this avoids many types of refusals including merely descriptive, deceptively misdescriptive, geographically descriptive and others that can often be predicted)

4) Verify the potential mark (as currently used) Functions As A Mark, and (this avoids specimen refusals, trade name refusals, and others. The USPTO is looking for valid use not just any use of a mark.)

5) Verify that the Goods and Services ID is both the correct and the maximum claim that are user can make and verify that the Goods and Services ID meets USPTO requirements before filing. (This avoids office actions to correct incorrect IDs  which can slow down a registration. Incorrect IDs  may be corrected during the prosecution of a trademark if they do not materially alter the mark or the ID. Correcting problems before application saves time and money. Filing in a new class after an application has been submitted to cure a problem ID is the same price as a new application in that class.)

*We don’t stop here but this is a good start!

Call us at 1-651-500-7590   for a Strong Trademark. A Strong Trademark is Not Just a tool to increase sales to customers–it is also easier to sell to your investors & licensees. If you have already received a refusal, it may not be too late, call us.

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Steps to a Patent    How to Patent An Invention

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Common Law Trademarks  Trademark Goodwill  Abandoned Trademarks

Should I Get A Trademark or Patent?

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35 U.S.C. 101 Inventions patentable.

Verify a Trademark  Be First To File   How to Trademark Search

35 U.S.C. 102 Conditions for patentability; novelty and loss of right to patent.

Using Slogans (Taglines), Model Numbers as Trademarks

Which format? When Should I  Use Standard Characters?

35 U.S.C. 103 Conditions for patentability; non-obvious subject matter.

Trademark Statistics    UDRP Elements    Loss of Trademark Rights

How To Answer A Trademark Cease and Desist Letter

35 U.S.C. 282 Presumption of validity; defenses

Trademark Refusals    Does not Function as a Mark Refusals

37 CFR § 1.53 Application number, filing date, and completion of application

Acceptable Specimen       Supplemental Register  $199 Statement of Use

How To Show Acquired Distinctiveness Under 2(f)

Filing Requirements for Patent Applications

Trademark Attorney for Overcoming Office Actions

Functional Trademarks   How to Trademark     Surname Refusal

List of U.S. Patent Classifications

Grounds for Opposition & Cancellation     Cease and Desist Letter

How Do U.S. Patent Classifications Work?

Valid/Invalid Use of Trademarks     Trademark Searching

Patent Statistics     Sample Patent, Trademark & Copyright Inventory Forms

Examples and General Rules for Likelihood of Confusion

USPTO Search Method for Likelihood of Confusion

Examples of Refusals for Likelihood of Confusion  DuPont Factors

Proximate Function

Color as Trade Dress  3D Marks as Trade Dress

Invention Information-  What is the Invention?

Ornamental Refusal  Standard TTAB Protective Order

Patent Field of Search

Descriptive Trademarks  Likelihood of Confusion 2d

Patent search-New invention

Merely Descriptive Trademarks   Merely Descriptive Refusals

Patent Search-Non-Obvious

Register a Trademark-Step by Step   Trademark Fixer

Difference between Provisional and Nonprovisional Patent Application

Likelihood of confusion-Circuit Court tests

Pseudo Marks    How to Reply to Cease and Desist Letter

Converting Provisional to Nonprovisional Patent Application (or claiming benefit of)

Overcome Merely Descriptive Refusal   Overcome Likelihood Confusion

What Does ‘Use in Commerce’ Mean?    SCAM Letters

Shop Rights

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Patent Pending see also Patent Marking

Typical Brand Name Refusals  What is a Family of Marks?

Patent Drawings

Trademark Steps Trademark Registration Answers TESS  

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Protecting Trademark Rights (Common Law)

Steps in a Trademark Opposition Process   How do I Know If Someone Has Filed for An Extension of Time to Oppose?

Changes To Implement the First Inventor To File Provisions of the America Invents Act

What is the Difference between Principal & Supplemental Register? What If Someone Files An Opposition Against My Trademark?

Patent steps

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PCT Patent Application information

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Samples of Responses to Office Actions

ID of Goods and Services see also Headings (list) of International Trademark Classes

Broad Patents

Geographically Descriptive or Deceptive

Making Amendments in Response to Office Actions

TTAB/TBMP Discovery Conferences & Stipulations

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Examples Office Action Responses More Examples

Trademark Incontestability  TTAB Manual (TBMP)

Trade Secrets

What are Dead or Abandoned Trademarks? Can I Use An Abandoned Trademark?  Can I Abandon a Trademark During An Opposition?

State & Federal Trade Secret Laws

Differences between TEAS and TEAS plus  Zombie Trademark

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How to Keep A Trade Secret

Acquired Distinctiveness  2(f) or 2(f) in part Extension of Time to Oppose

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