Thursday, March 10, 2011

Three tips when using GREEN in a trademark

If you use the word green in your trademark or service mark, you're in good company. Thousands of businesses now use green to signal to their customers that the company uses environmentally friendly practices. On the bright side, the growing number of green trademarks shows that citizen-consumers are demanding higher standards in the market place. But it also means that green no longer helps differentiate your products and services the way it used to.

So if you're protecting your intellectual property rights by applying for federal trademark registration, here are three things to bear in mind:

First, remember that green is a descriptive term so in and of itself it would not qualify for federal trademark protection. Because so many businesses use the word, its value as a mark has becoming weaker. As a practical matter, how does this affect you? When you're completing your application, disclaim the exclusive right to use the word green.

Second, remember to state in your application that you employ environmentally friendly practices. Without that statement, you could receive an initial refusal from the examining attorney at the US Patent & Trademark Office. An initial refusal isn't fatal necessarily, but it involves an additional delay and more of your attorney's (billable) time.

Third, if you have not yet invested significant resources into branding, think about adapting your mark to a market in which green-ness is no longer such a niche. Remember that while descriptive terms like green get the message across, arbitrary and fanciful marks receive the highest level of trademark protection. As you know, choosing the right mark means treading a fine line and the proliferation of green trademark applications is an important factor to bear in mind.

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