Snap Takes Trademark Battle Over “Spectacles” to Federal Court

In 2016, Snap released a digital eyewear camera device known as Spectacles. This involves a video camera in a pair of sunglasses. When a person wore the sunglasses and connected with the Snap app, the camera could take photos and videos that could be shared on the app. The Spectacles product initially failed to gain traction when it was released in 2016. However, Snap has developed an augmented reality version of Spectacles. This is not yet available to the general public but only to certain people chosen by the company.

Snap sought to trademark the Spectacles name when it released the first version of the product. The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office denied the application, finding that “spectacles” is a generic term in this context. (Generic terms are not eligible for trademark protection.) After reviving the product, Snap has renewed its pursuit of trademark protection for the name.

Last November, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the USPTO again ruled that “spectacles” is generic because it applies to all types of smart glasses. Snap now has filed a lawsuit in a federal court in California, seeking to reverse that decision. The new lawsuit raises many of the same arguments that the USPTO rejected. For example, Snap asserts that consumers have started to associate the word “spectacles” with Snap because of the substantial media coverage of its product. The company has received industry awards and used marketing tools such as social media to promote Spectacles. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board rejected this strategy, noting among other things that relatively few people follow the Spectacles social media accounts.

In addition, Snap has claimed that the word “spectacles” is not used often in the modern U.S., especially among the young demographic whom the company targets. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board was unconvinced by this argument as well, finding that the word “spectacles” has a generic meaning even in modern times. The board also pointed out that the eyeglasses form is an essential feature of the camera, both in how it works and how it looks.

Snap asks the judge to overrule that decision and order the USPTO to pass its trademark applications to publication for registration on the main USPTO trademark register.

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