Fledgling food truck owners are often misguided when it comes to selecting names for their future rolling bistros. Rather than considering competitors in the entire foodservice industry and identifying potential naming issues, they often select their truck names based on their gut feelings.
The mobile food industry is full of creative individuals that are looking to create the next great concept and name. Therefore, choosing a name that doesn’t infringe on the rights of a third party and isn’t impossible to enforce against other potentially similar names is critical to creating a solid food truck concept capable of growth and defensibility. In order to make an educated decision as to the name and “trademark” of your food truck, you will need to do some research.
A search of the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s trademark records is a good start point for your selection of an appropriate name for your food truck since it will help you to identify prior trademarks that have either been granted or denied registration through the USPTO. If there are any registered trademarks that are identical or might lead to consumer confusion with regard to your proposed name, you might be infringing the trademark of another. Note that the test for trademark infringement does not require two names to be identical but only confusingly similar to the consumer, so the spelling need not be the same.
During your investigation, you may also notice that certain descriptive terms and geographic designations are less capable of trademark protection. This is because the underlying policy of the USPTO is not to prevent any business owners from using descriptive terms and names to describe their businesses. For example, “Los Angeles Tacos” would more than likely be refused a trademark registration in connection with food truck services because “Tacos” is descriptive of the food and “Los Angeles” indicates the location. This issue is prevalent in the restaurant industry and has spilled into the food truck arena due to the fact that many food service businesses enjoy naming their restaurant or food truck with descriptive terms, such as “Bar and Grill”, “Mediterranean Cuisine”, “Denver Steakhouse”, etc. Therefore, to increase your chances of obtaining registration through the USPTO (which is a great tool for future expansion as it provides legal protection throughout the entire United States), use fewer descriptive terms and geographic designations or considering a unique alternative such as making up a word.
There are three points you must include in your initial trademark inquiry.
- Are there any existing trademark registrations that might prohibit you from using your proposed name?
- Is your proposed food truck name capable of registration with the USPTO so that you are able to enforce and defend it?
There is one more point you must consider. There may be names and trademarks that are being used by other food trucks or restaurants that have not secured federal trademark registrations. These food service competitors have acquired common law rights through their use of the name, which is defined by limited geographic regions of use. With this result, you may not have the priority to enter a region with your proposed name as you may risk infringing such common law trademark rights.
- Search Google to find businesses that have not registered their trademarks through the USPTO but may still have common law rights in a similar name.
As you can see, making an educated decision for the name of a new mobile food business is not an easy task. It can be filled with complicated details and analysis. We suggest that unless you are an attorney yourself, the best way to fully understand the implications of choosing an appropriate food truck name is to consult with an attorney who has a firm grasp of US trademark law.
We hope this article has shed some light on US tradmark law as it applies to naming your future food truck.