from the a-burrito-trademark dept
This very morning, I paid $5 for a breakfast burrito at a place near where I work. To be frank, I regret to say that it was ultimately disappointing. How in the world do you construct a steak breakfast burrito that lacks salt? The great news for me is that there are roughly a gazillion places around me that also advertise breakfast burritos, so I currently have other places to get them. The bad news, however, is that someone out there is taking a run at trademarking “breakfast burrito”, so that might not be the case in the future.
Recently, the Twitter account for Timberlake Law—a North Carolina based specialist in trademarks and copyrights—posted a link to the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s website for an application to trademark the term “Breakfast Burrito.”
Though most people will inherently sense that this seems ridiculous, Timberlake does a good job of spelling out the reason: “While it’s true that the drawing and specimen should match, the mark and the goods shouldn’t,” the tweet explains. To put it another way, the application seeks to trademark the phrase “Breakfast Burrito,” but in the section where the applicant explains what the trademark is for, the answer is “Breakfast burritos; Burritos.” Basically, if the only way you can describe what you’re trying to trademark is by using the same phrase as the trademark, then there’s a solid chance that the phrase is common enough that it can’t be trademarked in the first place. It doesn’t take much legalese to understand that.
Put more simply: a trademark can’t be for the generic name of a product or service. This should be obvious to all, as the point of trademark law is absolutely not to narrowly limit the choices consumers have for a given product or service. Still, this concept seems to elude some people.
The whole thing should remind you of the whole “Taco Tuesday” fiasco that is continuing to date, where Taco John’s somehow got a trademark for a phrase that describes serving people tacos on Tuesdays. In fact, that analogous trademark issue is useful as a marker for how the Trademark Office is complicit in fostering an environment in which people think they can trademark something like “breakfast burrito.”
As to who is actually trying to do so in this case, it’s something of a mystery.
So who exactly wants the rights to eggs wrapped in a tortilla in the morning? Eater attempted to get to the bottom of this application and, unsurprisingly, didn’t get very far. The site “reached out to the person listed on the application,” whose address “matches that of a personal injury law firm in LA,” but “did not hear back on requests for comment made over email and the phone by press time.”
So what’s this all amount to? Likely very little. Anyone with a few hundred bucks can attempt to trademark anything. Receiving a trademark and then protecting it is far more difficult, and based on the assessment of Timberlake and findings of Eater, this attempt to register “Breakfast Burrito” appears to be a random shot in the dark.
A shot that should, and likely will, fail. Still, we have a Taco Tuesday trademark, so how much of a stretch is it to see the USPTO rubberstamping one for “breakfast burrito” as well?