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  • Writer's pictureWei Wei

Why Trademark Applications Fail: Common Grounds for Refusal

Applying for a trademark is a crucial step in protecting your brand, but many applications hit roadblocks along the way. Understanding the common reasons for refusal can help you navigate the process more successfully. Here are the key grounds on which trademark applications often fail:


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1. Too Generic, Descriptive, or Non-Distinctive

Trademarks need to be unique identifiers of your goods or services. If your mark is too generic or simply describes the product, it won't be approved. For example, trying to trademark "Fresh Bread" for a bakery will likely be rejected because it's merely descriptive. Aim for creativity and distinctiveness to ensure your trademark stands out.



KFC copycat

2. Too Similar to an Earlier Trademark

One of the most common reasons for refusal is similarity to an existing trademark. If your mark looks or sounds too similar to a previously registered trademark, it could cause confusion among consumers. Conduct a thorough search before applying to avoid this pitfall.




scandalous trademark

3. Scandalous or Against Public Policy

Marks that are considered scandalous, offensive, or contrary to public policy are not permitted. This includes obscene language, derogatory terms, or anything that could be deemed socially unacceptable. Keep your trademark professional and respectful to avoid rejection on these grounds.



deceptive trademarks

4. Deceptive

A trademark must not be misleading about the nature, quality, or origin of the goods or services. For instance, if you try to trademark "Organic Honey" for a product that isn’t organic, it would be considered deceptive and thus, rejected. Ensure your trademark accurately represents what you are offering.




trademarks with flags or placenames

5. Containing the Name, Emblem, or Flag of a Place

Using the name, emblem, or flag of a country, city, or other governmental body can lead to refusal. Such symbols are protected to prevent misuse and misrepresentation. Avoid incorporating these elements unless you have explicit permission.



trademark with a person's likeness

6. Containing the Likeness of a Person

Using the name or likeness of a person, particularly without their consent, is another ground for refusal. This includes famous personalities and private individuals alike. Ensure you have the necessary permissions if you wish to use someone’s likeness in your trademark.




Tips for a Successful Trademark Application

  1. Be Distinctive: Create a unique and memorable mark that distinguishes your goods or services.

  2. Conduct a Thorough Search: Check existing trademarks to ensure yours is not too similar.

  3. Avoid Descriptive Terms: Go beyond simple descriptions and generic terms.

  4. Stay Professional: Avoid any scandalous or offensive content.

  5. Be Honest: Ensure your trademark is not misleading or deceptive.

  6. Respect Protected Symbols: Steer clear of names, emblems, or flags of places without permission.

  7. Get Permissions: Secure consent when using someone’s name or likeness.


By understanding these common grounds for refusal and taking proactive steps, you can increase the chances of your trademark application being approved and securing your brand’s identity.

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