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U.S. Supreme Court Determines Otherwise Generic Term When Combined With Generic “.com” Can Be A Registrable Trademark

July 6, 2020

In a June 30 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that an otherwise generic term, when combined with the generic top-level domain “.com,” qualifies for trademark registration if consumers perceive the combination to identify a particular source for services.

As background, a “generic” term is used to indicate a general class of goods (e.g., “smartphone” or “bed”) or services (e.g., “accounting” or “advertising”).  Generic terms generally cannot qualify as trademarks under the rationale that no single party should be given exclusive rights to a term that generally identifies a class of goods or services.  This prohibition on generic trademarks applies even if they have gained “secondary meaning” – that is, even if the public has come to identify the generic term with a particular manufacturer or seller.  (In contrast, “descriptive” terms – which describe a good or service, rather than merely naming that good or service – may qualify for registration once they have acquired secondary meaning.)

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