As college freshmen head to campus for the start of classes, there is one vital campus bookstore purchase before classes begin: a T-shirt bearing the college’s logo. This purchase is not only a rite of passage for freshmen; it also touches on an important concept in trademark law: ornamental use of trademarks on T-shirts.
What is ornamental use?
Under sections 1, 2, and 45 of the Trademark Act, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) can refuse registration of a trademark on the ground that the applied-for matter is decorative and therefore does not function as a mark because it is merely ornamentation. In re Peace Love World Live, LLC, 127 U.S.P.Q.2d 1400 (TTAB 2018). Ornamental matter can include words, designs, slogans, or trade dress.
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