Not all trademarks can be registered.

Descriptive trademarks are not registrable in Canada, EU and UK. They are registrable in the US on the Supplemental Register if certain conditions are met.

One may not register a word that describes a feature of the products or services.

Clearly, descriptive marks consist of dictionary words (or their phonetic equivalents) and describe characteristics of your product or service.

The reason clearly descriptive trademarks cannot be registered is to prevent a business from appropriating common dictionary words that describe important characteristics of its products and services, which would place its competitors at a significant disadvantage.

Some examples of clearly descriptive marks: FRESH MEAT for meat, ULTRA CLEAN for laundry detergent, OKANAGAN for grapes, SWISS for cheese, FAST AND ACCURATE for transcription services.

If you were allowed to register these words, no other business would be able to use these words to promote their goods and this would be unfair.

There is one exception:  if you can establish that your descriptive trademark has become so well known that people think of your product (and no one else’s) when they hear the words, you might be able to register the trademark. Think about BEST BUY – it is so famous that people would actually think about a store rather than “best deal”.

Question: What if I put my descriptive mark in a stylized font? Will my descriptive mark become registrable?

Answer: No. If your word mark is descriptive in block letters simply putting it in stylized form will not help. This is because a mere embellishment of the letters comprising the words cannot be dissociated from the words themselves.

Canadian Jewish Review Ltd. v. The Registrar of Trade Marks (1961) 37 CPR 89 (ExC) adopted.

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