The Concept of Family of Trademarks
What is Meant by a Family of Trademarks?
Trademarks are distinctive marks, symbols, or labels used to differentiate goods
belonging to one entity from that of another to avoid deception concerning the
origin of those goods or services. These intangible assets are often used in
collaboration with other marks by the formation of a trademark portfolio, which
consists of marks sharing a few characteristics and belonging to one entity. In the
Bainbridge judgment (2006), the court, in reference to a family of marks, said that
“they reproduce in full the same distinctive element with the addition of an
element, graphic, or word, which differentiates them from each other or when
characterized by the repetition of a single prefix or suffix taken from an original
The doctrine of the family of marks is simply a common law extension of
the Trademark Law that not only prohibits registration of similar marks, which is
likely to create confusion, but also those marks that are similar to a pre-existing
group of marks from which the proprietor of the group derives market utility
since the market recognizes the collective uniqueness of the entire group.
Characteristics of a Family of Trademarks
A family of trademarks is generally identified by the common use of a syllable(s),
which may be prefixed or suffixed. In addition to this, a family of trademarks is a
congregation of trademarks that has the following features:
1. A recognizable common characteristic(s);
2. Distinctive in nature; and
3. Brought into commerce since the purchasing audience recognizes the common
features of the many marks and contemplates that the goods or services originate
from a common trademark owner.
Therefore, the adoption of a series of marks to commercially market goods and
services would not suffice the creation of a family of marks. The purchasing
audience must recognize the shared characteristics indicating a common origin.
The same is majorly influenced by the mode of use, natu