FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS What Are Ornamental Trademarks?

The U.S. Trademark Office is one of the few trademark offices worldwide that won’t approve Ornamental Trademarks.

Why not, and what exactly is an Ornamental Trademark? Watch this video to learn more.


What Is An Ornamental Use Trademark?

The U.S. Trademarks Office doesn't like it. It’s a trademark that can’t be registered because it’s used as an ornament or design.

Ornamental Trademarks Definition

Ornamental trademarks are what the Trademarks Office says are unregistrable because they don't perform the function of a brand. So, for example, if you have an image or a slogan that you're putting on your t-shirts and you want to get that trademarked just for the sake of "it's a good phrase" or "it's a good image," but the purpose of that is not to identify a product or a service; i.e., it’s not a trademark image. 

That's what the Trademarks Office in the U.S. may reject by saying, "Yeah, well, it's just purely ornamental. You only want to get the monopoly over the phrase or the image. Not from the perspective of it being the identifier of your product, but you want to own the name, the phrase, the image itself."

Many patterns and designs you will find on clothing and fabrics are ornamental. Company logos or images directly and closely associated with a brand can be trademarked. But generic photos, shapes, patterns, etc., are not usually able to be trademarked in the U.S.

Why Does the USPTO Not Allow Ornamental Trademarks?

As I've told people many times, the function of a trademark is not to give you the monopoly over the name, phrase, or logo or to brand a slogan. Instead, it's to provide you with the monopoly over the mental link between that name, word, or logo and your particular products and services.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office defines an item as an ornament “when the use of your mark does not identify the source of your goods and distinguish them from the goods of others.” There are several ways to make the mark non-ornamental in the eyes of the USPTO. So, most of the time, the USPTO needs to be convinced that the image is uniquely identified with you to secure a trademark image. But in many cases, the difference between what is “ornamental” and “non-ornamental” is subjective. When this happens, it pays to have somebody on your side who knows the system and can help get your trademark.

Get Help Registering Your Trademark

If all you're trying to do is say, "Well, that's a great phrase, let's trademark it, or trademark a slogan," you may have an issue with the U.S. Trademarks Office. If it's a borderline scenario, if it's a gray area, then your chances of getting your trademark through go up significantly if you're being represented by somebody who knows how to deal with those things because a few words in your description and especially the way you submit the specimen of use—all of that could be crucial in terms of whether the Trademarks Office says, "Yes, it's a registrable trademark," or they say, "No, it's an ornamental trademark." Trademark Factory would like to help register your trademark. Get in touch with one of our trademark experts to get started.


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.