Look-Alike and Sound-Alike Trademarks

It's pretty obvious that using names or logos that are identical to a registered trademark would get you in trouble. But what about look-alikes or sound-alikes?

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TRANSCRIPT

Let’s say, you come up with a brand, you do the search, and you see that someone else had already come up with this idea. Not only they came up with that idea, they also trademarked that. And the question is, if you changed your mark just a little bit, maybe added some misspelling or maybe just added something around that, which would make your trademark a little bit different, would that allow you to register your trademark?

And the answer to that is usually, no. So sound-alike trademarks or look-alike trademarks are typically just as confusingly similar as the identical marks.

Because here is the thing, the trademarks examiner, when they get two trademarks applications, the standard is not for them to compare the two side by side. The standard to them is think of what would a person who once saw the first trademark— they’re not necessary their customer, they’re not necessarily buying that, they just saw that briefly, maybe in a store or on a website—so the question that the trademark examiner is asking themselves is, would that person think, when they saw your trademark, your misspelled, your look-alike, your sound-alike trademark, would they think that your product or service is actually coming from the same source as that other product or service that they saw a while ago.

And if their answer to that is yes, the trademark examiner will come to the conclusion that the two trademarks are confusingly similar. And it is not exact, it is more art than science, but the general rule is, they compare trademarks not only in terms of, are they identical? They compare trademarks as to, do they look similar, do they sound similar, do they mean the same thing? And if the answer to that is yes, then it’s very likely that the objections will be raised against your trademark, and those objections will be very difficult to overcome.

So, don’t fall under the impression that all you have to do is just add a few misspelled letters or maybe drop a few vowels, and you will be able to get away with this. Usually, you won’t.


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Disclaimer: Please note that this post and this video are not and are not intended as legal advice. Your situation may be different from the facts assumed in this post or video. Your reading this post or watching this video does not create a lawyer-client relationship between you and Trademark Factory International Inc., and you should not rely on this post or this video as the only source of information to make important decisions about your intellectual property.

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