Can you Trademark a QR code?

The short answer is NO; you cannot trademark a QR code on its own. But there is another route through which you can do the same. Continue reading to know how QR codes can be trademarked.

Are you a business owner using Quick Response (QR) codes for providing services to your customers. If yes, the idea of applying your QR code for trademarking must have crossed your mind at least once. As the use of QR codes increases each day, the business owners using QR codes want to know whether they can trademark the code to protect it from infringement. So, Can QR codes be trademarked?

What are QR codes?

QR codes are the types of barcode storing information in pixel series. Digital devices such as in-built QR readers in smartphones read and decode these pixels. You can use them to track the details of the supply chain products as well as advertising activities. You can read a QR code in 2 directions, i.e., top to bottom and left to right, making them store more data.

What can a QR code store?

A QR Code can store data of

  • URLs
  • Phone Numbers
  • Maximum of 4000 text characters

Can QR Codes be trademarked?

The trademark law provides trademark rights to the owner of the trademark. Under USPTO and other national trademark offices, you can trademark:

  • Slogans
  • Words
  • Symbols
  • Logos
  • Images

As the trademark law does not protect QR codes, the trademark offices (such as CIPO and USPTO) do not allow trademarking of QR codes.

So, the bottom line so far is that QR codes cannot be trademarked ON THEIR OWN. Then, what is the alternate route to trademark a QR code?

How to Trademark QR Codes?

Can QR codes be trademarked?

You can apply the QR code for trademark registration of a logo that consists of a QR code. For this route, you should use a symbol of the QR code and branding of your brand’s products and services. The logo must be easy to recognize and highlight the distinct feature of the brand. To avoid rejection based on the likelihood of confusion by USPTO, make sure your logo stands out amidst the competitive crowd.

Such registration does not provide any monopoly to the trademark owner over the image of that QR code for trademark. These are just meant to convey the brand’s message, and you can even use dummy QR code images or actual, functional QR codes. Therefore, QR codes act as figurative elements in the trademark logo. QR codes alone cannot be trademarked. However, you can trademark a QR code by accompanying it with features, words, and figurative elements.

Why does USPTO reject some applications with QR codes?

The three main reasons for rejection of trademark applications with QR codes are as follows:

  1. Such applications lack a distinctive character as QR codes are not considered signs denoting a commercial source.
  2. USPTO always rejected applications trying to trademark familiar names or symbols.
  3. As the trademark offices cannot register grant trademark rights against public policy, trademark applications with QR codes are denied.

As the QR codes lack a distinctive character, they are not signs that depict a commercial source. If you see a person wearing Adidas’ 3-stripes or Nike’s swoosh logo, you can automatically make out the brand name. As the same is not valid for QR codes, they are not commercial symbols as per trademark offices.

Also Read: Why does USPTO Reject Trademark Registration?

Is the QR code Patented?

No. There are no patent/copyright/trademark limitations on using a QR code as they are not patented. Denso Wave, who introduced the QR code, does not practice any patent rights. Thus, nobody owns the rights to the QR code. QR codes are publically available, and anyone can use them, ensuring they comply with ISO and JIS regulatory standards. Moreover, you don’t need to:

  • Have a licensing contract
  • Pay a licensing fee

Also Read: 3 Easy Steps to Find a Successful Business name

What are the uses of QR codes?

Danso Waves first invented QR codes to track the automotive company’s supply chain.

And what are various usage areas of QR codes nowadays? Their use encompasses marketing, advertising, payments, product tracking, counterfeit detection, sharing payment information, etc. Moreover, QR codes are also prevalent in:

  • Authentication for online accounts and verifying login credentials.
  • Accessing Wi-Fi by housing encryption details (SSID and Password)

Denso Wave further improved the design of the QR code in 2020 by including:

  • Brand Protection
  • Trackable features and traceability
  • Anti-forgery features

Why Trademarks Are Essential for Your Business?

Advantages of Trademark for Businesses are as follows:

  1. Crucial Asset of Utmost Importance: Companies and startups must view a trademark as an important asset. This is because as your business will expand, customers will begin to recognize your business by your trademark building a strong brand identity. Thus, a trademark should be seen as a long-term asset that will benefit business names and market position immensely by targeting potential customers. Having a trademark aids to your company’s marketing efforts and forms an important part of marketing strategy. 
  2. Brand Safeguarding: Getting a trademark is like establishing your brand’s graphical identity in the mind of customers. A trademark gives you exclusive rights over your products and services along with providing legal protection. Once you have trademark protection from your country’s trademark office, it becomes your intellectual property. Thus, a trademark will safeguard your company from any infringement. In addition, it will also ensure that a particular product or service is entirely your company’s property giving you full right to use and sell them. If anyone else tries to duplicate your trademark, you can initiate a legal action against them. 
  3. Sense of Uniqueness: Every company is different in terms of its products, services, and ideas. However, there are people ready to duplicate your unique ideas and take advantage of them. Thus, it is important to register your brand by means of a trademark. Not only does it safeguard your ideas, but also makes your products stand out in the market giving your brand a separate identity. Customers want to use new and innovative products that have a separate identity.
  4. Simple Communication: Trademark is a simple yet constructive tool. Humans understand pictures better than theory or words. And that is exactly what a trademark does. It is a graphical representation of your company, as a visual message about what your company has to offer. Customers remember a logo or image more than words or paragraphs. Also, it becomes easy for them to differentiate your company from a competitor in the market. For example, the moment you see a car with four overlapping rings on it, you will recognize it as a product from Audi. Similarly, a jumping jaguar represents Jaguar. However, you can even register a trademark for a word or words. In such cases, make sure you use catchy phrases or taglines.
  5. Easy Finding: A company with a separate trademark logo is an authentic one. For customers, it gets easy to locate your company if it has a distinguished trademark.
  6. Forever Lasting: If you register a trademark symbol today, it will last forever. With years, the company will grow and so does the value of its trademark. Also, you can renew a trademark every ten years. Thus, the identity of the brand keeps on living with the trademark.

Also Read: Starting a Startup? Trademark Can be a Game Changer

Start Your Trademark Journey with TMReady

Getting a trademark is one of the most challenging yet critical steps towards ensuring your brand’s success. And you need professionals’ help to ensure your company gets the right trademark without facing any rejections from USPTO. Imagine your customers being able to remember your brand’s logo or punchline, exciting distinctly? We can help you get there.

Our team of IP professionals has long-standing expertise in trademark registration, trademark search, and trademark monitoring. We serve as a one-stop solution for all your trademark needs. We provide our trademark services in various countries, including the UK, USA, China, South Korea, Japan, India. Have any more queries? Click here to know more about our services and prices.

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