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Litigating a Trademark Case That Involves a Secondary Meaning Claim?

Secondary Meaning - Trademark & Trade Dress

How to prove your case

What is Secondary Meaning?

Descriptive marks are not ordinarily protectable as trademarks. If they have acquired a secondary meaning, however, they may be able to be protected. Secondary meaning is achieved when relevant consumers come to identify a mark with a certain product or service over time. When this happens, a descriptive mark that a business would not have been able to register initially, because it related to the class of products and not the specific brand, may achieve protected trademark status.

Although each of the eleven circuits have formulated some version of a multi factor test to assess whether a mark has acquired secondary meaning, the Federal Circuit has clarified its own test, identifying the following factors that should be “weighed together”:

  1. Association of the trade dress with a particular source by actual purchasers (typically measured by customer surveys);
  2. Length, degree, and exclusivity of use;
  3. Amount and manner of advertising;
  4. Amount of sales and number of customers;
  5. Intentional copying; and
  6. Unsolicited media coverage of the product embodying the mark.

Secondary Meaning Survey Experience

If your case involves a trademark that has possibly achieved secondary meaning, HLCR's trademark survey expertise may be the difference in winning and losing. Survey evidence is a common way of proving secondary meaning, a crucial step in trademark litigation.  Specifically, a secondary meaning survey typically seeks to assess whether relevant consumers associate a trademark or trade dress with a single source. If relevant consumers associate the mark with a single source (rather than associating the mark with the class of products as a whole), this provides strong evidence that the mark has acquired secondary meaning.


Learn more about Harper Litigation Consulting and Research and expert witness Rhonda Harper.

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