A Family of Trademarks (also known as ‘House’ marks in some cases)

What is a Family of Trademarks?: A family of marks is defined as “a group of marks having a recognizable common characteristic, wherein the marks are composed and used in such a way that the public associates not only the individual marks, but the common characteristic of the family, with the trademark owner.” J & J Snack Foods Corp. v. McDonald’s Corp., 932 F.2d 1460, 1462, 18 USPQ2d 1889, 1891 (Fed. Cir. 1991). The common element may be a term, a phrase, or a component in the nature of a prefix or suffix. (See TMEP 1207.01 at http://likelihoodofconfusiontrademark.com/TMEP1207.html for more information.)


Why use a family of marks? Broader protection and a sharing of goodwill between products. Family marks can promote a positive spillover of the presumption of quality and authenticity that can remove some of the barriers to purchasing unknown products or services. The total protection afforded a family of trademarks may be greater than the sum of the trademarks in the family.

How to Establish a Family of Marks: Use and promote distinctive (i.e., not descriptive, so highly suggestive, or so commonly used that it cannot function as a distinguishing characteristic of the party's mark) family marks together in such a manner as to create public recognition coupled with an association of common origin predicated upon the family feature.  See Marion Laboratories v. Biochemical/Diagnostics, 6 USPQ2d 1215, 1218 (TTAB 1988). Call them a family! Opposer did not establish “family” of marks having term “Trek” in common with each other for bicycles and bicycle-related products, even though record shows that opposer has adopted and used several marks incorporating this term, since there is no evidence that opposer has promoted these marks together, or has referred to them as members of family of “Trek” marks. Trek Bicycle Corp. v. Fier, 56 USPQ2d 1527 (TTAB 2000)

Less Than A Family of Marks: Even without establishing a family of marks, the fact that a party has used variations of its mark by adding matter to it increases the likelihood that someone else’s mark that was also a variation would be perceived as an additional variation of the original party’s marks.  See Humana Inc. v. Humanomics Inc., 3 USPQ2d 1696, 1700 (TTAB 1987) (noting that this point is relevant even where a family of marks has not been proven, citing Varian Associates, Inc. v. Leybold-Heraeus G.m.B.H., 219 USPQ 829 (TTAB 1983)).

Beware of Overreaching! A Mark consistently used by applicant on each of its three pharmaceutical products is, by definition, a house mark, but applicant may not register that mark for description which states "a full line of pharmaceuticals. "The TMEP (Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure) does not indicate the minimum number of goods/services required for an applicant to register mark for a “full line” of those goods or services. The TTAB found that an application to register a mark for a full line of pharmaceuticals, based upon use of mark on only three products, does not justify such broad description. In re Astra Merck Inc., 50 USPQ2d 1216 (TTAB 1998)


Building a Family of Marks takes some planning and strategy. Searching for open space to grow is a great first step, losing a family because of infringement on someone else’s marks can be fatal to a product line or service line. Call us--we can help build a strong family of trademarks.



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Should I Get A Trademark or Patent?

Patentability Evaluation

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35 U.S.C. 101 Inventions patentable.

Verify a Trademark  Be First To File   How to Trademark Search

35 U.S.C. 102 Conditions for patentability; novelty and loss of right to patent.

Using Slogans (Taglines), Model Numbers as Trademarks

Which format? When Should I  Use Standard Characters?

35 U.S.C. 103 Conditions for patentability; non-obvious subject matter.

Trademark Statistics    Business Name Cease and Desist Letters

How To Answer A Trademark Cease and Desist Letter

35 U.S.C. 282 Presumption of validity; defenses

Trademark Refusals    Does not Function as a Mark Refusals

37 CFR § 1.53 Application number, filing date, and completion of application

Acceptable Specimen       Supplemental Register  $199 Statement of Use

How To Show Acquired Distinctiveness Under 2(f)

Filing Requirements for Patent Applications

Trademark Attorney for Overcoming Office Actions

Functional Trademarks   How to Trademark     Surname Refusal

List of U.S. Patent Classifications

Grounds for Opposition & Cancellation     Cease and Desist Letter

How Do U.S. Patent Classifications Work?

Valid/Invalid Use of Trademarks     Trademark Searching

Patent Statistics     Sample Patent, Trademark & Copyright Inventory Forms

Examples and General Rules for Likelihood of Confusion

USPTO Search Method for Likelihood of Confusion

Examples of Refusals for Likelihood of Confusion  DuPont Factors

Proximate Function

Color as Trade Dress  3D Marks as Trade Dress

Invention Information-  What is the Invention?

Ornamental Refusal  Standard TTAB Protective Order

Patent Field of Search

Descriptive Trademarks Trademark2e.com  Likelihood of Confusion 2d

Patent search-New invention

Merely Descriptive Trademarks   Merely Descriptive Refusals

Patent Search-Non-Obvious

Register a Trademark-Step by Step   Trademark Fixer

Difference between Provisional and Nonprovisional Patent Application

Likelihood of confusion-Circuit Court tests

Pseudo Marks    How to Reply to Cease and Desist Letter

Converting Provisional to Nonprovisional Patent Application (or claiming benefit of)

Overcome Merely Descriptive Refusal   Overcome Likelihood Confusion

What Does ‘Use in Commerce’ Mean?    SCAM Letters

Shop Rights

Section 2(d) Refusals   ApplyToTrademark.com

Patent Pending see also Patent Marking

Typical Brand Name Refusals  What is a Family of Marks?

Patent Drawings

Trademark Steps Trademark Registration Answers TESS  

Trademark Searching Using TESS  Trademark Search Tips

TSDR Trademark Status and Document Retrieval

What is a Small or Micro Entity?

Published for Opposition see also Opposition Steps/Cancellation Steps

Counterclaims and Affirmative Defenses

How to Respond to Office Actions

What is a Compact Patent Prosecution?

Protecting Trademark Rights (Common Law)

Steps in a Trademark Opposition Process   How do I Know If Someone Has Filed for An Extension of Time to Oppose?

Changes To Implement the First Inventor To File Provisions of the America Invents Act

What is the Difference between Principal & Supplemental Register? What If Someone Files An Opposition Against My Trademark?

Patent steps

How to Respond Office Actions  DIY Overcoming Descriptive Refusals

PCT Patent Application information

Trademark Clearance Search   DIY Trademark Strategies

Provisional Patent Effect on Patentability

Samples of Responses to Office Actions

ID of Goods and Services see also Headings (list) of International Trademark Classes

Broad Patents

Geographically Descriptive or Deceptive

Making Amendments in Response to Office Actions

TTAB/TBMP Discovery Conferences & Stipulations

TBMP 113 Service of TTAB Documents  TBMP 309 Standing

Examples Office Action Responses More Examples

Trademark Incontestability  TTAB Manual (TBMP)

Trade Secrets

What are Dead or Abandoned Trademarks? Can I Use An Abandoned Trademark?  Can I Abandon a Trademark During An Opposition?

State & Federal Trade Secret Laws

Differences between TEAS and TEAS plus  Zombie Trademark

Chart of Patent vs. Trade Secret

What Does Published for Opposition Mean?

How to Keep A Trade Secret

Acquired Distinctiveness  2(f) or 2(f) in part Extension of Time to Oppose

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