Trademarks have become essential for businesses to distinguish themselves from their competitors. To guarantee protection from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), it’s crucial to establish that the mark has attained secondary meaning in consumers’ minds to safeguard it from dilution or genericization. Surveys from Keegan & Donato Consulting can help.
We are a specialty research consultancy that designs and executes consumer surveys for attorneys and their clients in the context of IP disputes. Principals Mark Keegan and Tony Donato have 30-plus combined years of experience in consumer research and can help you strengthen your case.
What is Secondary Meaning in Trademark Law?
Secondary meaning refers to a word or symbol gaining significance in the minds of consumers beyond its primary meaning.
In trademark law, secondary meaning is essential to establishing distinctiveness and proving that a mark is not generic. A generic mark is a term that has become synonymous with a particular product or service, such as “aspirin” or “escalator.” When a mark lacks secondary meaning, it is considered to be weak and vulnerable to infringement. A generic mark cannot be protected as a trademark.
To prove secondary meaning, a business must demonstrate that the mark has acquired a distinctive meaning in the minds of the relevant consumers. This can be done through various means, including advertising and marketing efforts, sales figures, and consumer surveys.
How Secondary Meaning Surveys Can Strengthen Your Trademark
One effective way to establish secondary meaning is through the use of secondary meaning surveys. These surveys provide valuable insights into consumer perception of a mark, helping brands demonstrate that their mark has acquired a distinctive meaning in the marketplace.
A secondary meaning survey typically asks consumers about their familiarity with a particular mark and whether they associate it with a specific company or product. The results of these surveys can be used to demonstrate a mark’s distinctiveness and association with a particular brand in the marketplace.
Two Pesos, Inc. v. Taco Cabana, Inc., 505 U.S. 763 (1992) was a notable court case involving a secondary meaning survey. Taco Cabana, a Mexican restaurant chain, sued Two Pesos, a competing Mexican restaurant chain, for trademark infringement. Taco Cabana claimed that defendant Two Pesos had copied its distinctive trade dress, which included a festive and colorful decor.
The Supreme Court relied on Taco Cabana’s secondary meaning survey to determine that its trade dress had acquired a secondary meaning. The Court held that the plaintiff’s trade dress was protectable for this reason and that the defendant had infringed on Taco Cabana’s trade dress.
Hiring Professionals for Survey Services
Hiring professionals specializing in conducting these surveys is essential to ensure they are executed correctly and produce reliable results. Professional survey firms can provide various services, including survey design, implementation, and analysis.
Keegan & Donato Consulting offers extraordinary expertise in consumer research studies, and our work has been admitted into evidence in state and federal courts, at arbitration, the TTAB, and the NAD. Mark Keegan and Tony Donato also have extensive testimony experience.
Contact Keegan & Donato Consulting at (914) 967-9421 if you are interested in secondary meaning surveys. We will help you develop a strong strategy in your trademark case and ensure your success in a highly competitive business landscape.