Why Craigslist Could Not Trademark The Peace Sign

Image result for craigslist logoYou may have noticed that Craigslist, the free online classified advertising service, uses a purple Peace Symbol with its services. You may in fact recognize the symbol.  Indeed, it is unapologetically the exact Peace Symbol designed in 1958 by Gerald Holtom – save for the color purple – which was the only representation of the Peace sign Craigslist was attempting to trademark.

It is important to keep in mind that the function and purpose of a trademark is to denote the origin or source of goods or services. For instance, when you see an electronic product with a picture of a little apple with a bite in from the right side – undoubtedly you’ll be of the belief that the product you are looking at is made by Apple.

In order for a trademark to be registered, it must meet specific criteria. In particular, the mark must be distinctive. Here, the USPTO Trial Appeal Board said that adding the color purple did nothing to render the mark distinctive:

“We find that the purple color claim is not sufficiently distinctive to transform the universal peace symbol into an inherently distinctive mark, even as to the applicant’s specific services…”

The board found that the peace sign is a “universal symbol that retains its message in all context.” As a result, it “fails to function as a mark.”

Simply, the purple peace symbol is so strong that it remains a peace sign in all contexts.  No one would ever look at a purple peace sign and say “that’s the craigslist logo.” At best they might say “Craigslist uses a purple peace sign on its website.”

While Craigslist most likely knew it had little chance at registering the Peace Symbol as its own, the lesson is a valuable one for new businesses – take care in selecting and protecting your intellectual property.

Boulder Intellectual Property Attorneys at LaszloLaw

The Boulder intellectual property attorneys at LaszloLaw can help your business with its non-patent intellectual property needs, including trademarks and copyright. Contact our Boulder intellectual property attorneys today to discuss your business needs.

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