Strong Trademark? Is the mark really worth it?


Oct 17, 2014

This month a man in Alabama filed for a trademark to the phrase “Ebola Outbreak Map”. I’m all for the quick response to trends but is this too far? Is it even worth it? For a trademark to be valuable there should be a market for the goods/services it represents and the chosen name needs to be strong enough to pass examination. I think this fails.

First, examinations and the eventual registration may take 18 months. Will Ebola be around by then? Will it be widespread to need a map? The world is hoping not. The market may not be there.

Secondly, to get a trademark registered, examination is required. The patent office looks to the class of goods and services the trademark is filed under and then compares the trademark to other similar marks. In this case, “Ebola Outbreak Map” is filed under one goods class (016) and three service classes (35, 39, 42). In each of those classes, the mark will be judged on a scale (so to speak) ranging from Generic —-> Descriptive —-> Suggestive —-> Arbitrary & Fanciful. Generic is not allowable for the most part, while Arbitrary & Fanciful are by far the simplest to get through (as long as you are unique). It is easy to pick a name for a product or service. It is not always easy to pick a good name or strong name. In my opinion this mark looks to be stuck around the Generic and Descriptive area. The chance of registering it is slim. Paying for 4 classes puts him out around $1300.

In the end, it appears as though the owner ran out and quickly grabbed a generic/descriptive name to register while assuming that Ebola will become a long term and widespread problem. Maybe it will, but for a trademark to be valuable there should be a market and strength in the name. Sadly the name appears weak and the market will hopefully collapse soon. Additionally, you will notice on the registration that the owner of the mark did not appear to hire an attorney and may not have even solicited advice from one. In my opinion, with an eye to the business realities of life, it is not worth pursuing this mark, even if worldwide catastrophic outbreaks occur beyond the 18 months. The name should have been made less Generic and Descriptive. Best if he just talked to an attorney.

Lesson Learned: Quick actions are good but uneducated hastiness is costly.

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Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner.  He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.    
 Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005.  He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree.  He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010.  By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.