Why Do Patents Face Ornamental Rejections?

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Ornamental Rejections


In the intricate world of intellectual property, inventors and businesses often find themselves navigating the complexities of patent applications. One of the challenges they might encounter when filing a trademark is the ornamental refusal. But what is it, and why does it matter?

Ornamental Refusal: The Heart of the Matter

Navigating the patent application process is akin to treading a path laden with intricate nuances. One such nuance, often misunderstood, is the concept of ornamental refusal. But what does it entail? An ornamental refusal is the USPTO’s way of signaling that a mark, while aesthetically pleasing, doesn’t serve its primary function as a trademark. It’s when the USPTO discerns that the mark’s usage is predominantly decorative or ornamental.

In simpler terms, if the trademark fails to lucidly identify the source of the applicant’s goods and differentiate them from competitors, it faces this refusal. Delving deeper, consider the example of a logo, perhaps artistically designed and visually appealing, emblazoned across the front of a t-shirt.

To the average consumer, this logo might be perceived as a mere decorative element, an embellishment that adds to the shirt’s aesthetic appeal. However, if it doesn’t resonate as an indicator of the shirt’s brand or source, it misses its mark in the eyes of the USPTO. This distinction, subtle yet significant, is at the core of ornamental refusals.

Examples of Ornamental Use

To better understand, consider these examples:

Examples of Marks Used for Looks:

  • A big design or saying on the front of a shirt.
  • A symbol on the top part of a cap.
  • Fancy stitches on jean pockets.
  • Usual pictures or words we often see on items.


For these examples, most people would think they’re just for style, not to show where the shirt, cap, or jeans come from.

Here are some more examples, 

  1. Slogan on a Bumper Sticker: A catchy phrase or slogan printed on a bumper sticker might be seen as a decorative message rather than a brand identifier.
  2. Artistic Illustration on a Coffee Mug: A beautifully drawn illustration or artwork that covers the entirety of a coffee mug, without any clear brand association.
  3. Character or Scene on a Poster: A depiction of a famous movie scene or a beloved character on a poster, where the primary purpose is decorative and not to indicate the source of the product.
  4. Decorative Patterns on Footwear: Intricate patterns or designs on shoes or sandals that are primarily for aesthetic appeal and don’t indicate the brand or source.
  5. Tattoo Designs on a Notebook Cover: Artistic tattoo-like designs on the cover of a notebook or diary, which serve as decoration rather than a brand identifier.
  6. Famous Quotes on Wall Art: A well-known quote or saying printed in decorative fonts on wall hangings or canvas prints, where the primary intent is decoration.
  7. Seasonal Decorations on Apparel: Apparel items like sweaters or hats featuring seasonal decorations such as snowflakes, reindeer, or pumpkins, which are primarily for aesthetic appeal tied to a particular season or holiday.

Remember, the key aspect of ornamental use is that the design or mark is perceived primarily as a decorative element and doesn’t serve to identify and distinguish the goods/services of one party from those of another.

Overcoming Ornamental Refusal

Facing an ornamental refusal doesn’t mean the end of the road for your patent application the main strategy to overcome this challenge is a submit a new specimen which has the logo in a manner and location that is associated with identifying the source of a good or service.

The placement and perception of a logo or design play a crucial role in how it’s perceived. A small logo on a shirt pocket or breast area, for instance, is more likely to be seen as a trademark. In contrast, a large design in the center of a shirt might be viewed as decorative.

Consider renowned brands like Ralph Lauren. The small horse logo on the breast pocket of their shirts is instantly recognizable as the brand’s trademark. However, if the same logo were enlarged and placed in the center of the shirt, it might be perceived differently.

In Conclusion

Navigating the world of patents and ornamental rejections can be challenging. However, with a clear understanding of the USPTO’s criteria and a strategic approach to trademark placement and usage, inventors and businesses can successfully register their marks. Always remember, the primary purpose of a trademark is to serve as a source identifier. Ensure your designs and logos do just that, and you’ll be on the path to successful registration.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles, and comments on michaelmeyerlaw.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinions and views of the author as of the time of publication.


Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles, and comments on michaelmeyerlaw.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinions and views of the author as of the time of publication.


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