Federal trademarks are governed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). One of the requirements for registration is to submit a specimen that shows how your trademark name will be used.
What Is a Specimen of Use?
Your specimen of use should be a real-world example of how you intend to use your trademark alongside your products or services. In other words, you can’t just submit a picture of your logo. Whichever way you decide to connect your mark, you must prove that consumers will be able to easily associate it with your product or business name.
A Specimen for Goods
Whether you’re a manufacturer, retailer or wholesaler, your specimen of use should be a physical object bearing your trademark image or phrase. Here are some examples:
- On Your Product: Many goods come marked with logos and trademarks. A clothing company might use a trademark as a primary design tool, while a toy manufacturer might use a subtler imprint.
- On a Label: Some apparel goods do not feature logos or graphics. You can send in a label, but it must be one that you actually use with your products.
- On a Container: Packaging is a major element of branding. Apple, for example, uses a very distinctive package design.
- On a Display: This can be a point-of-sale banner, window display or an electric sign. You can also submit a catalogue as long as it includes an image of your product and information about ordering. Furthermore, the USPOT now considers a website as an acceptable specimen of use. In theory, a web page is like a banner, and the online ordering process is like a cashier counter. All displays must associate your product with your trademark.
You don’t have to include a visual depiction of the product, so long as your specimen creates an association. Furthermore, a web-based specimen must include an ordering platform, not just information about your company. This can be an Internet checkout process or even a simple phone contact and call to action.
A Specimen for Services
The specimen requirement is generally easier for service providers that it is for manufacturers. Acceptable submission include the following:
- Flyer/Brochure: This is much like the display method for goods. Advertisements are not acceptable specimens if they serve only to inform consumers about your service. You can only submit a flyer or brochure that is actually used in a point-of-sale presentation.
- Yellow Page Listing: This must be a published print or web-based business listing purchased from a provider.
- Website: This is slightly more difficult for service providers. Ultimately, your website should clearly sell your service and include some kind of ordering or contact information.
- Business Card: This is only acceptable if it displays both your mark and a description of your service. You cannot submit a business card as a specimen if you sell goods.
You may be permitted to amend your trademark application for immaterial changes. For example, the USPTO will likely allow you to simply add or remove a hyphen or change the font size of your wording. A substantial change, however, may warrant a new application. In general, an alteration is allowed if it doesn’t change the commercial impression.
The Registration Process
A federal trademark application may take over a year to process, so you want to make sure your package is complete and accurate. The USPTO will issue a refund for an incomplete registration packet, but you will be sent to the back of the line. Be sure to include your name, contact information, specimen, filing fee and a list of goods and services that will use your trademark. Simply put, your specimen of use should display your mark exactly how it will be exposed and used in the marketplace. Internal applications are not acceptable.
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