L.A. TECH & MEDIA LAW FIRM – Intellectual Property & Technology Law

Illegal Brands: Trademark Office Action for Unlawful Purposes

L.A. Tech and Media Law Firm Trademark Blog - Los Angeles Startup Attorney, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood

In the intricate world of trademarks, the journey from application to registration is filled with nuances and potential roadblocks, also called trademark office actions. One such roadblock or office action, often overlooked but of paramount importance, is the association of a trademark with unlawful purposes. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO.gov) stands as the gatekeeper, ensuring that trademarks associated with illegal activities do not receive federal registration.

In this blog, we’ll delve deep into the reasons behind the refusal of trademarks associated with unlawful purposes and the implications of such a decision by the USPTO.

The Journey of a U.S. Trademark Application

When a U.S. Trademark Application receives approval for registration, it marks a significant milestone. However, this approval does not automatically translate to an official registration. There are additional steps and potential challenges that applicants might face, one of which is the association of the trademark with unlawful activities.

The USPTO has a clear stance when it comes to trademarks associated with illegal activities. If a trademark’s intended use is for an unlawful purpose, it will face refusal.

Grounds for Refusal

The reasons for refusal can range from the nature of the business to the products it deals with. Some clear examples include:

  • Selling Alcohol to Minors: A business that intends to sell alcohol to individuals below the legal drinking age will not be granted a trademark registration.
  • Marijuana Businesses: Despite the growing acceptance of marijuana in various states, as of 2022, marijuana and cannabis products remain prohibited under federal law. This means businesses dealing with these products cannot secure a federal trademark.

Office Action: The Implications

The implications of an Office Action due to unlawful purposes are straightforward:

  1. No Certificate of Registration: Criminal enterprises or businesses associated with illegal activities will not receive a certificate of trademark registration from the USPTO.
  2. Federal vs. State Laws: It’s essential to understand the distinction between federal and state laws. While certain products or activities might be legal at the state level, they might still be prohibited federally, leading to trademark refusal.

Why This Matters

Trademarks are more than just symbols or words; they represent a brand’s identity and reputation. By ensuring that only lawful businesses can secure trademark registration, the USPTO maintains the integrity of the trademark system and protects consumers from potentially harmful or misleading brands.

Navigating the Trademark Waters with Expertise

The world of trademarks is complex, and the path to registration is filled with potential challenges. Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or an established business, understanding the nuances of trademark registration is crucial.

Hire David Nima, Esq. as your attorney to guide you through the trademark registration process. With his expertise and deep understanding of the USPTO’s workings, you can navigate the challenges and ensure your brand’s protection.

For those looking for a comprehensive guide on trademarks, Chapter 9 of the book “Tip-Top Trademarks. Brand Protection Blueprint for Business” offers invaluable insights into the world of trademarks and their association with lawful and unlawful purposes.

L.A. Tech and Media Law Firm Trademark Blog - Los Angeles Startup Attorney, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood


The journey from trademark application to registration is a testament to a brand’s legitimacy and reputation. By understanding the reasons behind trademark refusals and seeking expert guidance, businesses can ensure their brand’s protection and build a strong foundation for their future. For additional information or to get consultation on the legality of your trademark, contact an experienced trademark law firm. And for self-study, see Chapter 9 of “Tip-Top Trademarks. Brand Protection Blueprint for Business” now available on Amazon in e-book and paperback formats.

Picture of David N. Sharifi, Esq.
David N. Sharifi, Esq.

David N. Sharifi, Esq. is a Los Angeles based intellectual property attorney and technology startup consultant with focuses in entertainment law, emerging technologies, trademark protection, and “the internet of things”. David was recognized as one of the Top 30 Most Influential Attorneys in Digital Media and E-Commerce Law by the Los Angeles Business Journal.
Office: Ph: 310-751-0181; david@latml.com.

Disclaimer: The content above is a discussion of legal issues and general information; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be used as such without seeking professional legal counsel. Reading the content above does not create an attorney-client relationship. All trademarks are the property of L.A. Tech & Media Law Firm or their respective owners. Copyright 2024. All rights reserved.

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