Trademarking common phrases, can it actually be done?

Specsavers have recently attempted to file a trademark for the phrase “should’ve” which they use in their marketing slogans, one of which being “should’ve gone to specsavers”.

We shall have to wait to see the outcome of this application.

However, Specsavers are not the first company that has attempted to trademark a common word or phrase.

On 23rd May 2016 Coca-Cola was granted a trademark for the term ‘Zero’ for soft drinks only, therefore not giving them the right to use the term exclusively. According to the World IP Review The TTAB found that Coca-cola’s descriptive brand name  had acquired distinctiveness in the marketplace, which made it eligible for a trademark application.

Although some companies have been successful in registering a combination of common words, it is much more difficult to register a single common word, especially if they are descriptive marks, like ‘zero’.

When choosing your trademark name  you should pick one that is least likely to be rejected by the trademark authorities. The three main types of name that can be successfully trademarked are suggestive, arbitrary or fanciful names. A fanciful name is a made up name that bares no resemblance to the real name or a description of the goods or services, for example “Kodak”. “Dove” is an arbitrary name as it is used for soaps and has nothing to do with the bird. An example of a suggestive name is “Greyhound”, used for the coach company, because it only suggests the possible nature of the goods or service it is used for without describing them. Descriptive names like ‘Zero’ describe a function or feature of the product and therefore cannot generally be registered as trademarks. However, if a descriptive brand name develops a secondary meaning by acting as an origin indicator for the goods or services, like Coke Zero has done, then in some cases it can be eligible for registration as a trademark.

For advice and more information on searching, acquiring, registering and enforcing Trademarks please visit our website,
Our unique database of trademarks for sale or license could save you time and help protect your brand.