What Does a Failure to Function Mean in Trademark Law? 

Picking out a good name for your trademark is just one step on the way to establishing the trademark for your business. Registering your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is a worthwhile path to take because it allows you to protect your rights against trademark infringers. But not all trademarks will make it to registration. It may be rejected for many reasons, including the likelihood of confusion or mere descriptiveness. Another common form of registration refusal is the “failure to function.” Before you file for registration, read on to learn more.

What is the Purpose of Trademark Law?

The main purpose of trademark law is twofold: It is to help consumers know where the products and services they use comes from, and it rewards and protects companies who form goodwill and rights by being the first to use a trademark on a service or product. This prevents other businesses from trying to use a similar mark to sell similar products or services.

What is a Failure to Function?

A trademark is a word, symbol, design, slogan, or phrase that is used to identify and distinguish your business’ product or goods from others; it is a source identifier. A trademark can be rejected for registration based on its failure to function when the mark can’t be used as a source identifier in the public’s mind.

Because a trademark must be distinctive, a mark that’s only informational or that’s a widely used phrase, doesn’t connect with a particular business, product, or service. Therefore, it fails to function as a source identifier and can’t be protected under trademark law.

When Will a Trademark be Rejected for Failure to Function?

Typically, the USPTO will reject a trademark for failure to function when the mark fits into one of these categories:

  • It is informational or descriptive
  • It is a message that’s commonly used
  • It is generally used to show religious, political, or social views
  • It shows support or is associated with a particular message

Examples of Trademarks that Were Rejected for Failure to Function

The more familiar the term or phrase is, the less likely it will be a mark that could be used to identify a single source of goods or services.  Here are examples of marks that failed to function as source identifiers:

  • All natural gourmet crabmeat pasteurized
  • Born in the USA
  • God bless the USA
  • I love you
  • Intelligence of things
  • Inventory is evil
  • Legal landmines
  • Mama bear
  • Remember this name
  • Ribbons of hope
  • She knew she could
  • Team Jesus
  • The next move is yours
  • Worst movie ever

Get Help with Trademark Registration

Although you don’t necessarily need to have your trademark registered. But if you do, you want to be sure that it’s not going to be rejected based on a failure to function. Add value to your business by getting your trademark registered and get help with a skillful attorney familiar with intellectual property issues. Contact us here at MOWK Law where our lawyers are available to fill your IP needs.