Troubleshooting Trademark: Exploring the Possible Reasons for Trademark Application Rejection

Have you recently started the process of filing a trademark application? If so, you might’ve already realized how quickly the United States Patent and Trademark Office can reject your application. The application process is a bit arduous at times.

However, knowing why an application will be rejected will make it easier for you to get your trademark sooner.

The filing was completed incorrectly

One of the most common reasons for a trademark application to be rejected is because the application was filed incorrectly. If you don’t manage your trademark filing project well, you might miss the crucial components necessary for approval.

An excellent way to ensure that you appropriately handle all trademark filings is to partner with an IP management firm. These firms offer expert advice and services for filling out and submitting applications correctly the first time.

Likelihood of confusion

In some cases, trademarks are rejected due to a likelihood of confusion. For example, your trademark might conflict with another mark that’s either pending or active. This conflict can be due to close similarity to another brand in your industry.

For example, if another athletic company attempted to use a check mark, the application would likely get denied due to its similarity to the Nike swoosh.

If your mark is too similar to another existing or pending trademark, the USPTO may reject it. Therefore, you must get your trademark application in as early as possible. A few backup options will also quickly help get a second application resubmitted if you need to change your trademark.


Your trademark must represent your brand or company to be considered for acceptance. The attorneys at the USPTO will carefully examine your mark to ensure consumers will be able to recognize your business on sight.

The USPTO will reject your application if your mark is merely descriptive or deceptively misdescriptive. Merely illustrative means your signature describes your product too generically. Deceptively misdescriptive means your trademark implies your product is something it isn’t.

Unclear product examples

When you apply for your trademark, you must submit images of your product, allowing the attorneys at the USPTO to determine whether your mark accurately depicts your product, company, or service.

However, the USPTO might reject your application if you submit images that don’t clearly show what your trademark will represent. The easiest way to remedy rejection based on unclear examples is to offer additional photos.


Another reason your trademark might be rejected is if the attorney thinks the mark is merely ornamentation. For example, if the brand is a decorative feature on your product, the USPTO might reject your application because the impact doesn’t serve a specific function.

An example of ornamentation versus trademark is New Balance’s sneaker numbering system. The number 574 is a specific sneaker, so the number is trademarked for use on New Balance 574 sneakers. However, New Balance can’t trademark 574 for use on all of their products because it’s not indicative of the brand overall.

Geographic descriptiveness

Similar to the descriptiveness mentioned above, your trademark can be rejected due to geographic location references. A geographically descriptive mark is a generic trademark that uses a geographic location. Conversely, a geographically deceptively misdescriptive mark misrepresents a product or company’s origin.

Geographic descriptiveness is especially important with regional products, such as foods. For example, if you make a product in one state but trademark with a different state’s name, your application will be rejected because it’s geographically deceptively misdescriptive.

Primarily a surname

Although many business owners have dreams of trademarking their surname for their business, that’s not always an option at first. If you need to trademark your surname, your name has to be associated with your brand—for example, the public associates Ford as a surname with the automotive company.

Before you can trademark your surname, it has to hold significance with the product you sell. Once you’ve established a brand around your name, you’ll have an easier time trademarking your surname.

Wrapping up

When applying for your trademark, take time to explore all the reasons why applications are rejected. In most cases, a few tweaks will mean the difference between a rapid approval and a long, drawn-out process. Once you know how to navigate the system, you’ll be on your way to enjoying your trademark in no time.

Leave a Comment