If you've ventured into the trademark space, you've probably heard a lot of talk about trademark classes. The goal of this post is to give you an overview of what they are and how they are used in the trademark application process.
In the United States (and many other trademark jurisdictions), when you apply for a federal trademark registration you will be asked what class of goods or services apply to your use of the trademark. These classes of goods and services refer to the 45 product classes of the International Classification of Goods and Services under the Nice Agreement. You can read more about the Nice Classification System and International Classes generally from the World Intellectual Property Organization here.
Each of the 45 international classes of goods or services contain a specific subset of items. Classes 1 through 34 are used for goods and classes 35 through 45 are used for services. For example, jewelry falls under Class 14 and clothing falls under Class 25, while advertising and business services fall under Class 25 and legal services fall under Class 45.
So why are these classes important? When you go to register your trademark, you are required to identify that class of goods or services with which you currently use the mark and are seeking protection. By identifying the goods or services with which you use the mark, you enable the trademark examiner to conduct a likelihood of confusion analysis.
Any time a trademark is applied for, one of the considerations that must be made by the examining attorney is whether or not the trademark presents a likelihood of confusion with a prior mark. One of the primary ways that a mark can conflict is when two similar marks are being attempted to be used in conjunction with the same or similar goods and services. The first consideration for the examining attorney is going to be whether or not the marks are similar. If the examiner finds that they are similar, then the examiner will look to the goods or services identified in the application to determine whether they are similar such that there would be a likelihood of confusion on the part of consumers as to the source of goods or services.
It is important to note that the goods do not have to be identical for there to be a likelihood of consumer confusion. The examining attorney will consider both the same class of goods or services and related classes when undertaking the likelihood of confusion analysis. For example, an individual attempting to register the mark Pretty Little Treasures for jewelry under Class 14 would likely be found to conflict with an existing mark for the online retail store selling jewelry called Pretty Little Treasures under Class 35.
When applying for your trademark it is important that your filing basis also correspond to your business offerings within the class(es) of goods and services you select. For example, if you are filing on the basis of use in commerce, your description should only include goods or services with which you are actively using the mark. If you haven't begun using the mark in conjunction with particular goods or services and want to protect your rights in those classes, then you would need to file on an intent to use basis.
Wondering what trademark class your goods or services would fall into? We've put together this Trademark Classes Cheat Sheet that you can download that breaks down the main goods and services that fall into each of the 45 international classes. Just click the link below to have it delivered straight to your inbox!