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A descriptive mark is a trademark or service mark that is not inherently distinctive and identifies some function, use, characteristic, size or intended purpose of a product or service.[1]


For a descriptive mark to merit trademark protection, the party claiming protection must demonstrate that the mark has gained secondary meaning among the relevant consuming public. [2]

Descriptive marks directly inform the consumer of a characteristic, quality, ingredient, or function of a product (e.g., ICE COLD BEER or BEST SLEEP MATTRESSES).

If a mark is merely descriptive or deceptively misdescriptive of the goods or services to which it relates, the mark will be refused registration on the Principal Register under §2(e)(1) of the Trademark Act.[3]


  1. America Online, Inc. v. AT&T Corp., 64 F.Supp.2d 549, 560 (E.D. Va. 1999) (full-text) (citations omitted).
  2. Washington Speakers Bureau, Inc. v. Leading Authorities, Inc., 33 F.Supp.2d 488, 496 (E.D. Va. 1999) (full-text) (citations omitted).
  3. 15 U.S.C. §1052(e)(1).