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Can you get a geographical trademark?

On Behalf of | Apr 8, 2023 | Trademarks

When seeking a trademark, there are certain rules and restrictions that have to apply. Not all trademarks are going to be approved. Business owners will sometimes seek to trademark a word or phrase that they believe would help their business, but it is ruled that that is not actually a type of intellectual property that can be protected.

One example of this is if someone tries to trademark something that is known as a generic term. In most cases, you cannot do so. The same thing applies to a word that is “primarily geographically descriptive.” The geography of a certain product is not only considered to be generic, as it is simply describing where that product is from, but it is also a term that could be used by many businesses to accurately describe where their products originate. As a result, geography typically cannot be trademarked.

Words can obtain a secondary meaning

There is one exception to this, which is when the public starts to give a word a secondary meaning. This just generally means that the public understands that the term, even though its geographical nature, is applied to a specific type of business.

One example of this is the restaurant chain Kentucky Fried Chicken. Technically, Kentucky is a geographical term. Many restaurants in Kentucky could also make fried chicken. But this could still be trademarked because it has a secondary meaning to the general public, so a new business owner who tries to start a restaurant called Kentucky Fried Chicken would be infringing on the rights of the existing chain.

As you can see, this process does get complicated. It’s important for business owners to understand exactly what legal steps to take.