Can I Trademark the Name of an Event?

Clients often ask if they can trademark the name of an event, such as an annual fundraiser, art festival, hackathon, or conference.   Yes, you can trademark the name of an event if you meet the general requirements for a trademark.

How To Trademark An Event Name

While you cannot trademark the activities that occur or the topic of the event, you can trademark the name.  These are the requirements:

  1. The name must be distinctive.  No other events are using this name.
  2. The name must be original or creative.
  3. The event must have a national audience for  a federal trademark.

You cannot trademark a generic, purely descriptive term, such as “Electronics Trade Show” or “Annual Garden Show” since many events use variations on these common terms.

What Part Of An Event Can I Trademark?

You can trademark:

  • Name of the event
  • Logo
  • Slogan

If your event is a national event (draw attendees from more than one state), it is considered to be in commerce.  You can apply for a federal trademark.  If your event is solely a local or regional event in a single state and you do not draw attendees from other states, you will not qualify for a federal trademark.  Instead, apply for a state trademark.

You cannot trademark:

  • the activities that occur
  • the physical layout of the event
  • the agenda/order the activities occur
  • the concept of the event

For example, you cannot trademark the racecourse layout of a marathon.  You cannot trademark the order of events of a pentathlon.

When Should I Trademark My Event?

Trademarks are valuable assets.  They can have monetary value to your brand.  People associate certain events with certain organizations. For example, “Relay for Life” symbolized the American Cancer Society. TED Talks symbolizes short, authoritative, current educational talks.  Ironman symbolizes a particular, competitive, physically-demanding event.

Event trademarks are best suited for those interested in building a brand associated with a specific, recurring event with a national audience.  Think:  an annual fundraising or revenue-generating competition or conference.  In those cases, I recommend you trademark your idea to avoid copycats and brand dilution.

What Can I Do If Someone Uses My Trademark?

As with any trademark, you can defend your trademark in a variety of ways.  The first step is usually a polite cease-and-desist letter.  Often, event organizers are not aware that your event name is trademarked.  They just borrow an idea they found on the internet.

If that does not work and the infringement continues, you can file legal actions to stop the infringement.

I advise vigorously defending your trademark.  If you allow businesses to use your trademark without permission, you risk losing your rights to that trademark.

 

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