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Decoding USPTO Refusals: Common Causes and How a Trademark Attorney Can Help

In the exciting world of branding and intellectual property, securing a trademark is a crucial step for businesses to protect their unique identities. However, before your trademark gets the official stamp of approval from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), there’s a chance it might face some hurdles. These hurdles are often in the form of descriptive or generic refusals, which can be quite common. In this blog, we’ll delve into what these refusals are and explore the reasons behind them. We’ll also discuss how a skilled trademark attorney, like “Trademark Legal,” can be your savior in navigating the trademark registration process.

USPTO Refusals: What Are They?

Before we dive into the common reasons behind descriptive or generic refusals, let’s understand what they entail. When you apply for a trademark with the USPTO, your application goes through a rigorous examination process to ensure it complies with trademark law. If the USPTO examiner finds any issues, they might issue a refusal, which means your trademark application is rejected, at least for the time being.

Common Reasons for Descriptive or Generic Refusals

  1. Descriptive Terms: One of the most common reasons for refusal is using descriptive terms in your trademark. Descriptive terms are words or phrases that directly describe the product or service you offer. For example, if you’re selling coffee, using the word “coffee” in your trademark is considered descriptive. USPTO wants trademarks to be distinctive, and using common words can hinder that.
  2. Generic Terms: Going a step further, generic terms are words that are so common and widely used that they can’t be registered as trademarks at all. For instance, trying to trademark the word “computer” for a computer-related product would likely result in a generic refusal.
  3. Lack of Distinctiveness: Trademarks need to be unique and distinguishable from others in the market. If your proposed trademark lacks distinctiveness and could be easily confused with existing trademarks, the USPTO might issue a refusal.
  4. Geographical Descriptiveness: If your trademark contains terms that describe the geographical origin of your product or service, it may face refusal. For instance, using “Florida Oranges” for a juice brand might lead to a refusal if your product is not exclusively associated with Florida.
  5. Merely Ornamental Use: Some trademarks consist of decorative elements that are considered ornamental rather than serving as a source identifier. These are usually refused, as they don’t fulfill the primary function of a trademark, which is to distinguish your goods or services.
  6. Functional Features: Trademarks should not cover functional aspects of a product. If your proposed trademark primarily serves a functional purpose, such as the shape of a tool, it could face refusal.
  7. Confusingly Similar to Existing Trademarks: If your trademark is too similar to an existing one, it may lead to consumer confusion. USPTO aims to prevent this, so they may refuse your application to avoid potential conflicts.
  8. Inadequate Specimens: When submitting your trademark application, you need to provide specimens that demonstrate your trademark’s use in commerce. If these specimens are inadequate or do not meet USPTO’s standards, it can result in a refusal.

How “Trademark Legal” Can Help

Facing a refusal from the USPTO can be disheartening, but it’s not the end of the road. This is where a seasoned trademark attorney, like “Trademark Legal,” comes into play. Here’s how they can assist you:

  1. Legal Expertise: A trademark attorney is well-versed in trademark law and knows the ins and outs of the USPTO’s examination process. They can provide guidance on strengthening your trademark application to avoid refusals.
  2. Trademark Searches: Before even submitting your application, a trademark attorney can conduct comprehensive trademark searches to ensure your proposed trademark doesn’t conflict with existing ones. This reduces the risk of a refusal due to similarity.
  3. Drafting and Filing: Crafting a strong trademark application is crucial. A trademark attorney can help draft a compelling application that highlights the distinctiveness of your trademark, increasing the chances of approval.
  4. Response to Refusals: If your trademark faces a refusal, a trademark attorney can analyze the reasons behind it and formulate a persuasive response. They can navigate the appeals and review processes effectively, making a strong case for your trademark.
  5. Trademark Enforcement: Post-registration, a trademark attorney can assist in protecting your trademark against infringement and ensuring its continued validity.


Securing a trademark for your business is an essential step in protecting your brand identity. However, the path to trademark registration isn’t always smooth, and descriptive or generic refusals can be a stumbling block. Understanding the common reasons behind these refusals is crucial. Moreover, seeking the expertise of a trademark attorney from “Trademark Legal” can make all the difference in successfully navigating the USPTO’s examination process.

Don’t let refusals deter you from protecting your brand. With the right guidance and legal support, you can increase your chances of obtaining that coveted trademark registration and ensuring your business’s long-term success.

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