Primarily Merely a Surname

Under §2(e)(4) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(e)(4), a mark that is primarily merely a surname is not registrable on the Principal Register absent a showing of acquired distinctiveness under §2(f), 15 U.S.C. §1052(f).

  1. The question of whether a term is primarily merely a surname depends on the primary, not the secondary, significance to the purchasing public. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board has identified five factors to be considered in making this determination:
    whether the surname is rare (see TMEP §1211.01(a)(v));
  2. whether the term is the surname of anyone connected with the applicant;
  3. whether the term has any recognized meaning other than as a surname (see TMEP §§1211.01(a)–1211.01(a)(vii));
  4. whether it has the “look and feel” of a surname (see TMEP §1211.01(a)(vi)); and
  5. whether the stylization of lettering is distinctive enough to create a separate commercial impression (see TMEP §1211.01(b)(ii)).

In re Benthin Mgmt. GmbH, 37 USPQ2d 1332, 1333-1334 (TTAB 1995). Where the mark is in standard characters, it is unnecessary to consider the fifth factor. In re Yeley, 85 USPQ2d 1150, 1151 (TTAB 2007).If there is any doubt as to whether a term is primarily merely a surname, the Board will resolve the doubt in favor of the applicant. Yeley, 85 USPQ2d at 1151; Benthin, 37 USPQ2d at 1334.