FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS Look-Alike and Sound-Alike Trademarks

All trademarks need to be distinct.

But what are look-alike trademarks and sound-alike trademarks?

Watch this video to find out.


Trademark Symbol Copy: Look-Alike and Sound-Alike Trademarks

Let's say you come up with a brand, research, and see that someone else has already come up with this idea. Not only did they come up with that idea, but they also trademarked that. And the question is, if you changed your mark just a little bit, maybe added some misspelling, or perhaps 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 or look-alike trademarks are typically just as confusingly similar to the identifying marks or a trademark copy. 

Complications From Look-Alike and Sound-Alike Trademarks

Because here is the thing, the trademark examiner, when they get two trademark applications, the standard is not for them to compare the two side by side. The standard for them is to think, “What would a person who sees both trademarks side-by-side think?” They're not necessarily customers; they're not necessarily buying a product; they just saw it briefly, maybe in a store or 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 believe that your product or service is coming from the same source as that other product or service that they saw a while ago? Is it a trademark copy of the original?

And if their answer is yes, the trademark examiner will conclude that the two trademarks are confusingly similar. And it is not exact, it is more art than science, but the general rule is that they compare trademarks not only in terms of, are they identical? They compare brands 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, which will be tough to overcome.

So can you copy a trademark? The answer to that question is, “No.” Your brand will need to be easily distinguishable from other trademarks belonging to your competitors.

Look-Alike Trademark Example: Dr. Pepper vs. Coca-Cola Company

Everybody knows about both Dr. Pepper and Coca-Cola. But in 1972, the Coca-Cola Company introduced a competitor to Dr. Pepper, a similarly flavored soft drink called “Peppo.” The makers of Dr. Pepper sued Coca-Cola for copyright infringement, claiming the Peppo name and likeness were too similar to their product. So, Coca-Cola changed the name of their soft drink to Mr. Pibb. That name was identical but distinct enough to be allowed to exist as its trademark. Additionally, Mr. Pibb's logo was sufficiently different from Dr. Peppers's, so not to be an exact trademark copy.

Strengthen Your Trademark with Trademark Factory

Don't add misspelled letters or dropping vowels. Think trademark rules, similar names, and the information provided above. Trademark Factory is here to help secure your trademark. Get in touch with us, or subscribe to our YouTube channel.


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.