Orange, MA asked in Business Law, Copyright, Intellectual Property and Trademark for Massachusetts

Q: Is the actual punctuation mark semicolon trademarked by this company?

I've heard of people having their jewelry on etsy removed due to having a semicolon in their design. It does refer to the project semicolon organization but is just the actual punctuation mark, not their logo or anything like that. Is it still not allowed?

2 Lawyer Answers

Ali Shahrestani, Esq.

PREMIUM
Answered
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Licensed in Massachusetts

A: I see no basis for an IP assertion of rights re: simply a semicolon. The best first step is an Initial Consultation with an Attorney. You can read more about me on my law practice website. This answer does not constitute legal advice; make any predictions, guarantees, or warranties; or create any Attorney-Client relationship.

Kas DeCarvalho

Answered
  • Trademarks Lawyer
  • Johnston, RI

A: I'm not representing that this is a formal Trademark search, but I was curious enough about your question to look into it. First, there's no particular reason barring the trademarking of a symbol (unless it falls into one of the other disqualifying rationales such as hate speech/offensive, or the "Merely Descriptive"-based objection). Insofar as a colon is indeed just a symbol--sure, why not? I looked it up, and Behold!: A New York-based jewelry company indeed owns Registered TM #2437597, described as "two not concentric circles...that are wholly or partially shaded," or--a colon.

An even more interesting question is whether the mere existence of a colon *anywhere* in a jewelry company's name (say, on Etsy) would rise to the level of being "confusingly similar" to the public as to be deemed "infringing" by the USPTO. I'd have to consider each individual circumstance independently, but I have very serious doubts that the existing registration acts as a blanket prohibition on all use of colons on the jewelry industry.

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