Trademarks do not exist in a vacuum. A trademark must always be tied to at least one product or service. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) uses the International Nice Classification System, which has a total of 45 numbered classes, to organize goods and services; classes 1-34 cover goods, and classes 35-45 cover services. For example, class 3 covers cosmetics and class 36 covers insurance and financial services.
Why are Classes Important?
Classes are important because they allow trademarks to co-exist. For example, it is possible for Dove® soap and Dove® chocolate to both be registered trademarks. And Delta® airlines and Delta® faucets. In both situations, these trademarks can co-exist because they belong to different unrelated classes of goods and services. Classes are also important because it provides adequate notice to the public and easy searching capability to uncover potentially-conflicting registered and pending marks.
Classes Determine your Scope of Protection
What you need to know as a Business Owner is that the scope of protection of a federal trademark registration is only applicable to the specific international class(es) and the goods and services that you designate and pay for in your trademark application. Beyond the general identification of these classes, are also a description of each individual good or service that the owners want their trademark to apply to. The frugality of saving a few bucks by including fewer international classifications can end up costing you a good chunk of the potential value of your trademark down the road.
Do Not Select The Wrong Class
It is also important to identify the correct classes on your application. Do not make the mistake of accidentally filing your mark in the wrong class. The mark itself, and the list of goods and services cannot be materially changed or expanded after filing a trademark application (See Trademark Rule 2.71(a), “The applicant may amend the application to clarify or limit, but NOT to broaden, the identification of goods and/or services . . . .”. It is critical that you fully understand the scope of the trademark rights you are seeking to protect and that you consult with a Trademark Attorney that can provide you with legal advice and the appropriate judgment in crafting a trademark application.