Coming up with a unique name for a brand, good, or service that can ultimately be trademarked is challenging. To stand out, and apart, from competitors and those who may already have intellectual property rights, some business owners will look to foreign words that aren’t commonly known or understood by English-speaking consumers to represent their company.
However, it’s important to know that under intellectual property laws in the United States, the translation of the words or phrases you may wish to trademark will still be considered during the trademark approval process.
This rule is called the “Doctrine of Foreign Equivalents,” and it requires the courts and prosecuting bodies to translate foreign words to make sure they can be legally registered as trademarks and that they are not confusingly similar to something that’s already registered in the marketplace.
For example, words that are merely descriptive cannot be registered as trademarks–whether they are in English or another language. So, if a pizza company calls themselves “Pizza Calda” and seeks to trademark that brand name, they will likely run into some headaches during the application process. The USPTO will see that “Pizza Calda” translates to “Warm Pizza” in Italian, which is just a descriptive trait of pizza in general that can’t be protected.
When deciding on a trademark, consider best practices one would follow when registering an English word: namely that arbitrary and fanciful marks (which are words or phrases that have nothing really to do with the product or service) offer the strongest protection and likelihood of approval. On the other hand, foreign words that translate into something generic or descriptive will likely be rejected, no matter how unique the word sounds to English-speaking consumers.
If you still have questions about foreign language trademarks or you’d like to discuss your ideas with a trademark attorney, we are here to help guide you through every step of the process. To schedule a consultation, simply contact our law firm at (888) 666-0062.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.