Trademark registration

Common Reasons Why Your Trademark Registration May Be Denied

Avoiding Trademark Refusal: Understanding the Most Common Causes of Denied Trademark Applications

Common Reasons Why Your Trademark Registration May Be Denied

The trademark and branding industry can be a complex and competitive space, having a unique and memorable name, slogan, or logo is critical to standing out.

However, sometimes, even after investing time and resources into creating the perfect branding elements, a trademark registration may still be refused by a government agency such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

In this article we’ll highlight some of the most common reasons why Trademark applications are denied by USPTO and how you can avoid application denial and increase your chances of successfully registering your trademark.

We’ve already talked about Why You Should Trademark Your Brand and how important it is to protect your ideas from plagiarism through the Trademark Process – If you’re hoping to have your trademark approved, it’s important to understand why some applications are refused. There are two main reasons for the refusal of a trademark: substantive reasons and non-substantive reasons. 

Substantive Reasons: 


These are the reasons why a trademark application may be rejected by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) based on its substantive merits.

1.Confusing terms or design:
If your mark is similar to someone else’s existing trademark, this is called “likelihood of confusion” or a 2(d) refusal.

To avoid this, it’s important to do a thorough search of existing trademarks before filing your application.

2. Unclear examples:
If your product examples aren’t clear enough, your application may be denied.

If your product examples are unclear, provide a substitute specimen such as a different screenshot of your website or a photo of your product.

3. Application errors: The USPTO emphasizes specificity and precision in its applications.

Carefully review your application to avoid errors, such as choosing the wrong class or listing the wrong entity.

4. Merely descriptive words or design:
If your trademark directly describes your product or service, it could be considered merely descriptive and rejected.

Use a unique and distinctive term or design that does not directly describe your product or service.

5. Non-distinctive words or design: When your trademark is too similar to commonly used terms or designs.

If your trademark is too similar to commonly used terms or designs, consider adding a disclaimer or modifying your trademark.



Refers to administrative issues with your trademark application, rather than substantive issues with your trademark itself. These issues can delay the approval of your trademark, but are often simple to resolve. 

Some common non-substantive reasons for trademark refusal include:


  1. Inadequate identification of goods or services:

Ensure that your goods or services are described clearly and understandably in your application.

2. Need for additional background information: The USPTO may request additional information about your trademark, such as its intended use, or the history of your business.

Provide additional background information when requested by USPTO.

3. Poor description of a stylized logo:

Include a detailed description of a stylized logo in the application.

4. Requirement for a disclaimer: In some cases, you may need to include a disclaimer for part of your trademark.

For example, if you’re trying to trademark a common word or phrase, you may need to include a disclaimer indicating that you’re only claiming a limited portion of the word or phrase.

While the trademark registration process can be a challenge, overcoming common non-substantive reasons for refusal is completely achievable. By following the tips above you can minimize your chances of refusal when registering your trademark.

If you have concerns regarding the trademarking process we can help you! provides an efficient and stress-free solution to register your trademark. Get started here!

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