Throughout the history of commerce, people have used their own names or family names to identify their products. So, it should follow that surnames or proper names are common trademarks. That’s not the case with the USPTO register, though.
Generally speaking, a proper name or surname is not registerable on the Principal Register of the USPTO. The logic is that if someone wishes to use their own name, then someone else already using that name shouldn’t be able to stop someone else from doing the same with their own name.
This might seem strange, because we’re used to seeing proper names as trademarks, like McDonald’s, O’Reilly’s, Paul Newman, or George Forman for a few examples. But these are exceptions to the rule. These trademarks have all acquired distinctiveness in the market as identifiers for fast food, auto parts, salad dressing or grills. These names have become distinctive in the minds of consumers as identifiers of these products.
This is often known as “secondary meaning.” Basically, the marks have become famous enough to overcome the general rule. There are several ways to show that a name has become distinctive as a trademark, such as consumer surveys, marketing history, and continuous use. If you wish to trademark your own name, you have to show that the name is distinctive of your services.
Wolfe Legal Services can help with that. Schedule your free consultation now.