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Can I Trademark a Phrase or Slogan?


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From a branding perspective, a business should really take its time to invest in forming a positive and authentic image of itself in order to be well received by potential consumers, customers, and clients. Part of that branding includes phrases. The right phrases can create an emotional connection with a company that results in a positive response. 

But what exactly is a “phrase” or “slogan”? According to the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP), “A phrase is a group of words that are used together in a fixed expression,’ ‘two or more words in the sequence that form a syntactic unit that is less than a complete sentence,’ and ‘a sequence of two or more words arranged in grammatical construction and acting as a unit in a sentence.’

How do I begin the process to trademark a Slogan or Catchphrase?

To begin, a trademark can only be registered once it has been proven as original and does not infringe on another existing trademark. Because you will be using it for the purpose of selling a commodity or service, you will need to define the categories in which you intend to do business. For instance, if you are selling coffee products, you should be sure that no other coffee-associated company has the same name as your phrase, and that no individual has registered the name (as distinct from a company name) previously either.

The United States Patent & Trademark Office, which reviews and approves trademark applications, has a public trademark research tool available. You can use that to search for instances of your mark, or one similar to it. For marks that resemble catchphrases, however, it is important to be aware of all types of potential similarities between your mark and that of another. The USPTO will reject anything that may cause confusion. Catchphrases tend to be the most difficult to trademark since there are many factors necessary when multiple words are involved. A trademark attorney will likely be able to assist you in the search process better, provided they have access to a more powerful search tool.

The general process of trademarking a catchphrase, phrase, or slogan typically follows the steps outlined below:

  1. Choose an Original and Distinct Phrase
  2. Search the USPTO Database for Your Phrase
  3. Select the Appropriate Filing-Basis for the Trademark Application
  4. Select the Appropriate Class of Goods/Services and Description of the Goods/Services
  5. Pay the Appropriate Gov. Filing Fee
  6. Submit the Trademark Application
  7. Continue to monitor your Trademark

With a federal registration as the owner of your trademark, you are now responsible for protecting and managing your trademark. Catchphrases can easily “go viral,” so you must actively prevent others from exploiting your mark. A federal trademark registration gives you a much greater latitude to be proactive and aggressive in the maintenance of your brand. Ensure that you are fully aware of your rights by registering them and defending them.

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