An organic food brand can certainly be registered as a trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
However, if you intend to use the term “organic” in your mark, there are a couple of different pitfalls of which to beware.
How Can Registering Your Organic Food Brand As a Trademark Help You?
First, why register your organic food brand as a trademark?
Trademark registration carries with it a number of important advantages for your organic food product or enterprise.
Notably, Federal trademark registration
- Allows you to use the ® registered trademark symbol in your advertising and packaging.
- Prevents anyone else from registering that same name or logo as a trademark.
- Allows you to serve a cease and desist letter upon any infringers.
- Allows you to file suit for trademark infringement in Federal court.
- Allows you to ask US Customs to block import of infringing knock-off products.
- Publicizes your right to exclusive national use of that brewery or beer name or logo on the trademark register.
- Provides value to your business.
No business without the ability to enforce its brand in Federal Court has any real fair market value. Customer goodwill travels with the brand, not the organic food product at the end of the day.
Regardless of whether you are selling organic foods or natural foods or operating a restaurant or wholesale grocery business offering these products, these advantages will apply to you.
The cost of registering your organic food business name, product name, logo, or even slogan is a necessary start-up expense.
Retaining an experienced Michigan trademark attorney to at least run an initial clearance search of your organic food product or business name before investing thousands in corporate formation, domain name registration, website development, marketing, and inventory.
It sounds like a lower priority, perhaps, but what do you do when your “perfect” organic food product name turns out to have already been registered as a trademark—by someone else? Halfway across the country?
You eat the money spent in branding spent to-date. Your new enterprise is not off to a great start if you are in this position.
Initial trademark registration clearance searching, re-branding, and re-searching is what serious start-ups do to ensure that they end up with an organic food brand that will stand the test of time—and stand up in court.
Registering a Trademark for Organic Food Products Generally
That all said, what are the requirements for registration of your organic food brand or business name generally?
Your organic food brand name must, first of all, be unique.
It must be unique enough to specifically identify your organic food business as the source of that product to US consumers.
This is required not simply because you don’t want your organic food product confused with anyone else’s. It’s also required because the first priority of the USPTO is to ensure that US consumers are not confused as to what they are buying and from whom.
Trademark registration under US law is primarily, from the government’s standpoint, a consumer protection measure, in other words.
It imbues your organic food business with all of the advantages described above. However, the USPTO will be, throughout your application process, looking out for US consumers.
What is meant by the word “unique” here?
It means that no one else has registered a trademark that is the same or “confusingly similar” to your organic food brand before you. Further, it also means that no one else anywhere in the US has been using the organic food brand name longer than you.
Under US law, the right to exclusive use of a trademark belongs to the person who has been using it the longest. This true even if that longer using person has never filed a trademark registration application. You must have first use in commerce, generally.
Thus, an experienced Michigan trademark attorney will always run a pre-application clearance search that includes “prior use” instances other than those listed on the Federal trademark register.
Not Merely Descriptive or Generic
Further, your organic food name or brand must not be either generic or merely descriptive of the product being sold.
That is, your trademark cannot simply name the thing being sold—or the place in which you are selling it. An example of this would be “Detroit Organic Lettuce.”
Not only is “organic lettuce” merely descriptive of the product itself but “Detroit” is “geographically descriptive” of the place in which the product is sold or grown.
A generic trademark simply is your organic food product as a “type of thing.” For example, “Carrots” would be a pretty terribly generic organic food product brand name. It could never be registered as a trademark.
A trademark must be strong enough to be truly descriptive.
Must Be Used In Interstate Commerce
Finally, you must be using your organic food brand name or logo in interstate commerce.
This means that you have to have sold your organic food product over the Michigan (or other state’s) border under that specific name or with that specific logo.
The Federal government has no jurisdiction under the US Constitution’s Commerce Clause to regulate or confer any of the advantages of trademark registration upon your organic food brand.
Once you cross state lines with your sales and marketing (together), you are “in use in commerce” and eligible for US trademark registration.
This means a bona fide sale has occurred. However, you can file an “intent to use” trademark registration application if you believe that you will be “in use in commerce” within a year or two to obtain your priority trademark application filing date.
This can be useful if an infringing use springs up after you file.
Organic Food Products: Certification Required
All of this said, there is an additional requirement for use of “organic” food brands within US trademark law.
The “organic” designation is itself a trademark.
It is not a self-adopted adjective that you can feel free to throw around and attach to any food product that you wish.
It is what is called a certification trademark. It is owned by the US Department of Agriculture.
Certification trademarks are registered trademarks that are available for use by third parties whose products or services meet the criteria established by the mark owner.
In order to use the word “organic” and the now-familiar USDA Organic seal on your organic food brand product packaging, your cultural, biological, mechanical, and other production processes must meet strict USDA requirements.
If you cannot meet the USDA’s organic food production requirement criteria, you may be better off utilizing other terminology such as “natural” or “country-style” in your branding.
Remember, though, these are very descriptive terms that are not likely, in and of themselves, registrable as trademark for your organic food products.
Let A Michigan Trademark Lawyer Help You
Your organic food product will be most successful when it is sold in association with a strong brand that is registrable and enforceable as a US trademark.
Retaining a Metro Detroit trademark attorney will ensure that your trademark registration application is not denied for any easily avoidable reason.
Noble Path Trademark Law is a boutique US law practice located in Metro Detroit and assisting entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, artists, musicians, start-ups, and larger enterprises with robust intellectual property portfolios, and others in all industries with trademark registration, trademark renewal, trademark monitoring, and Office Action refusal response matters.
Additionally, we also have nearly 20 years of experience representing Michigan bankruptcy clients.
We offer virtual consultations, premium customer service, and the expertise you need to maximize your odds of trademark registration success.
Click the “Register Your Trademark” button below to schedule your initial consultation and to begin your brand protection journey.