Likelihood of Confusion Refusals. An Overview

When you file a trademark application with the USPTO, one of the potential refusals you may encounter is a likelihood of confusion refusal. This type of refusal occurs when the USPTO determines that your proposed trademark is too similar to an existing trademark, and could cause confusion among consumers. Here's what you need to know about a likelihood of confusion refusal:

two similar looking blonde women both wearing tan overcoats and white blouse standing next to each other in front of a building

When you file a trademark application with the USPTO, one of the potential refusals you may encounter is a likelihood of confusion refusal. This type of refusal occurs when the USPTO determines that your proposed trademark is too similar to an existing trademark, and could cause confusion among consumers. Here’s what you need to know about a likelihood of confusion refusal:

What is likelihood of confusion?

In trademark law, likelihood of confusion refers to the likelihood that consumers will be confused as to the source of goods or services offered under two similar trademarks. The USPTO considers a variety of factors in determining likelihood of confusion, including the similarity of the trademarks, the similarity of the goods or services offered, and the channels of trade used.

Why does likelihood of confusion matter?

The purpose of trademark law is to prevent consumer confusion and protect the goodwill associated with a brand. If two trademarks are too similar, consumers may be confused as to the source of the goods or services offered, which can harm the reputation and value of both brands.

How is likelihood of confusion determined?

The USPTO considers a variety of factors in determining likelihood of confusion, including the similarity of the trademarks, the similarity of the goods or services offered, and the channels of trade used, among other things. The USPTO may also consider the strength of the existing trademark and the degree of care exercised by consumers when making purchasing decisions. Bear in mind that the USPTO’s determination on a likelihood of confusion is also subjective.

What happens if my trademark application receives a likelihood of confusion refusal?

If your trademark application receives a likelihood of confusion refusal, you will have the opportunity to respond to the refusal and argue that your proposed trademark is not likely to cause confusion among consumers. This may involve submitting evidence to demonstrate that your trademark is distinguishable from the existing trademark, or arguing that the goods or services offered under your trademark are sufficiently different from those offered under the existing trademark.

How can I avoid a likelihood of confusion refusal?

It is nearly impossible to 100% guarantee that you will not receive a likelihood of confusion refusal; but you can mitigate the risks. To best avoid a likelihood of confusion refusal, it’s important to conduct a comprehensive trademark search before filing your trademark application. This can help identify any existing trademarks that may be too similar to your proposed trademark. You may also want to consult with a trademark attorney to ensure that your proposed trademark is strong and distinctive, and less likely to be confused with existing trademarks.

In summary, a likelihood of confusion refusal can occur when the USPTO determines that your proposed trademark is too similar to an existing trademark and could cause consumer confusion. To better avoid a likelihood of confusion refusal, it’s important to conduct a comprehensive trademark search, consult with a trademark attorney, and ensure that your proposed trademark is distinguishable from existing trademarks. Contact us today to learn more.

Have questions? Contact us to learn more about trademark refusals or how we can help you with your trademarks.