Snap Inc sues US Patent Office because it wants to trademark ‘spectacles’

Snap Inc sues US Patent Office because it wants to trademark ‘spectacles’

Snap Inc (the creator of Snapchat) has sold a variety of glasses with integrated cameras over the years, called ‘Spectacles,’ somehow avoiding most of the public criticism that Google Glass received for the same idea. Snap has been attempting to file a trademark in the United States for the word Spectacles for most of that time, and now the company has filed a complaint against the US Patent Office for not allowing the trademark.

The Verge spotted a complaint filed by Snap in US District Court in California, after the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) denied the company’s application for a trademark on the word “spectacles.” Snap claims in its lawsuit that the name “evolkes an incongruity between an 18th century term for corrective eyewear and Snap’s high-tech 21st century smart glasses,” and also encourages people “to make ‘spectacles’ of themselves.”

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Snap says it filed a federal trademark application for Spectacles on September 20, 2016, three days before the announcement of the first-generation model. The first rejection came on December 27, 2016, where the US Patent and Trademark Office said the application wasn’t descriptive enough. Snap responded, but the USPTO denied the updated application in April 2019. The denial was appealed again, and the back-and-forth continued until November 3, 2021, when the USPTO once again blocked the trademark.

The term ‘spectacle’ has been around since at least the 14th century, according to Merriam-Webster, but Snap says in its lawsuit that the trademark should be granted because “it does not refer to an entire genus, class, or category of goods,” and the company pointed to articles and news coverage that use “smart glasses” or “camera glasses” as the more generic term.

This latest legal battle could go on for a while, so it’s not clear when the spectacle over the trademark filing will come to an end. Snap teased a “next generation” pair of Spectacles back in May, but the new glasses are not yet available for sale.

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Corbin Davenport
Corbin Davenport

Corbin is a tech journalist and software developer. Check out what he's up to at corbin.io.

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