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Deep Dive: A Guide to the USPTO Mark Drawing Codes

I’ve seen quite a few questions about whether a specific registered trademark would have an impact on an artist’s text-based design, and quite often the trademark is in a specific font or style, and the artist doesn’t really need to worry about it. So here’s a guide to the six types of “Mark Drawing Codes” that all trademarks fall under, and which two types are the ones that text-design artists need to look out for!

Let’s start with a trip into the TESS search system at the USPTO, so you can see where I’m going to find out this information.

 

SEARCHING TESS FOR A MARK

 

USPTO Mark Codes - TESS search home page

 

Here’s the TESS home page; most folks will click on the top option, “Basic Word Mark Search (New User).”  But I’ve found that I rarely use that anymore; I much prefer the bottom option, “Word and/or Design Mark Search (Free Form)” so that I can get much more filtered and precise results.  I’ll go over this Free Form search system lightly here, but you can read my “Searching TESS with a Little More Finesse” article for a lot more information about how to use this feature!

When you get to  the Free Form page, it may look a little intimidating:

 

USPTO Mark Codes - TESS Free Form search page

 

Bu don’t worry!  Over half of the page is just helpful information.  You’ll build your search in the top “Search Term” box, and you can filter by dozens and dozens of things: all of the items down in that “US Trademark Field Codes” are parts of a trademark application that you can use as filters.

I’m going to use Disney marks for most of my examples, because I know for a fact that they own a metric $#!t-ton of trademarks.  (As of this writing, they own nearly 1800 registered and active trademarks. And if you also count cancelled marks and applications that haven’t been finalized yet, their number jumps up over 6600.)

So for this example search, I’ve put in:

Disney [ON] and live [LD] and `RN > "0" and 4 [MD]

What this means is that I’m putting four filters in place.  I’m looking for marks that have “Disney” as part of the mark owner’s name (ON); the marks need to be live (LD) (as opposed to dead, which is how cancelled and abandoned marks are listed); the registration number (RN) needs to be a number larger than zero (so that my filtered list will only show marks that have been assigned a registration number, meaning they’re fully finalized and active); and in this case, I’m looking for Mark Drawing Code (MD) number 4.  We’ll get into what each of the 6 drawing code numbers mean in a minute.

 

USPTO Drawing Codes - TESS Free Form search results

 

When you submit your search, you’ll get a list of all of the marks that fit your search criteria.  In this case, there are 1110 (!!!) marks that fit all four of my filters.  (Yes, that’s a heck of a lot!)

You can click on any of the fields to go to a page with more details for a specific mark.  I clicked on a registration for THE GOLDEN GIRLS that’s a bit farther down this list of search results, for purely nostalgic reasons.

 

USPTO Drawing Codes - TESS sample search result

 

Here we get a search result page with some brief information about this trademark.  But this page doesn’t include ALL of the information, and you also can’t copy and paste the link to this page, because it’s a funky search result.  In order to get to the permanent, linkable page with a lot more information, click on the blue “TSDR” button at the top left.

That takes us to…

 

USPTO Drawing Codes - TSDR page for a mark

 

This gigantic page full of tons of information, with tabs leading to more pages full of more information!  This is usually referred to as “the TSDR page.” I know it’s a lot, but the more you look at these, the more you’ll get to know all of the nooks and crannies full of information.

Here I’ve called out a few specific areas of this page that are the most important for folks who make text designs:

  1. Status Tab: that’s the tab we’re on right now, which shows an overview of the trademark.
  2. Documents Tab: we’ll go there shortly. This is where you can find copies of all of the documents the USPTO and the applicant and/or the applicant’s lawyer exchange!
  3. The text of the trademark itself.
  4. The “drawing” of the trademark. (More on that shortly!)
  5. The registration number. A mark only gets this when it’s complete, fully registered, and active. You’ll see a serial number just above; every application gets assigned one of those when it’s submitted to the USPTO, so the application can be followed through the process.  So just a serial number isn’t an indicator of whether the mark is active.
  6. The mark’s status icon. Here’s a list of all 15 icons, but generally: green with the award ribbon icon means registered and live.
  7. Related to the status icon, this is the mark’s status in text form. “Issued and active” means this one is fully finalized!
  8. And now, the point of this blog post: the Mark Information tab. There are a whole bunch of little tabs down here, but this first one is what we’ll be discussing today. It shows the Mark Drawing Cod, which indicates what type of mark this is, plus any restrictions, descriptions, or exceptions.

 

Backtracking to two items: the Documents Tab (2) and the “drawing” of the mark (4):

 

USPTO Drawing Codes - Documents page of the TSDR for a mark

 

If you click on that “Documents” tab, you’ll see a list of all of the documents submitted as part of the application, and all of the communication between the mark owner (or their lawyers) and the USPTO.  The Drawing is almost always one of the first things that’s submitted, right after the application itself.  It’s an image of the trademark – an illustration if it’s an illustrated mark, or just the text of the mark in a neutral font if the mark isn’t stylized.

Now, let’s dig in to each of the 6 drawing codes!

 

 

THE USPTO’S MARK DRAWING CODES

 

1: Typed Drawing (legacy)

We’re going to start with a kind of wonky code, because it isn’t used at all for new applications.  Drawing code 1 used to refer to a “typed drawing,” meaning it’s just words, letters, or numbers (basically, anything you can type) and there’s no specific font/style being registered; the mark is just the word or phrase.  This code was used up until November 2, 2003.  After that, the USPTO changed these over to drawing code 4.  Here’s an example:

 

USPTO Drawing Codes - Type 1

 

This registration for the phrase WALT DISNEY WORLD just barely made that November 2003 cutoff.  As opposed to most of the other mark types, there usually isn’t a drawing attached; back in the pre-2003 days, I guess they didn’t feel it was necessary to have a pictorial representation of a text mark.  A small handful of type 1 marks have a drawing that looks like a bad photocopy, but most don’t have anything here.

 

USPTO Drawing Codes - Type 1 Mark Information

 

Here’s the Mark Information section for this WALT DISNEY WORLD trademark.  It has a drawing type of 1, with the added information “TYPESET WORD(S)/LETTER(S)/NUMBER(S).”  (This one also has a note that the mark doesn’t identify a living individual, because rights of publicity are a whole other bag of worms.  Compare that part to this registration for TAYLOR SWIFT, where that field contains: “The name(s), portrait(s), and/or signature(s) shown in the mark identifies “Taylor Swift”, whose consent(s) to register is made of record.”)

This is one of the two types of marks that text design artists need to watch out for!  This is a registration for just the word or phrase, with no specific restrictions as to font, style, color, or any other element. No matter how you style a design of this word or phrase, you’d be infringing on this trademark.

 

 

2: Marks Comprising Only a Design

Drawing Code 2 is reserved for trademarks that have no text at all; they’re only a design or illustration.  Let’s take a look at one of Disney’s characters who may or may not be a dog: Goofy!

 

USPTO Drawing Codes - Type 2

 

Here you can see that there’s nothing in the “Mark” field on the left, because there’s no text involved in this mark.  Over on the “Drawing” side, you can see the specific Goofy illustration covered in this registration.

 

USPTO Drawing Codes - Type 2 Mark Information

 

Down in Goofy’s Mark Information, you can see that his drawing type is “2 – AN ILLUSTRATION DRAWING WITHOUT ANY WORDS(S)/LETTER(S)/NUMBER(S). [And yes, that extra “S” in “WORDS(S)” is classic!]

Marks of this type also have to have additional information included to make them easier to search, since there’s no text involved with the mark that you can search for.  That’s why we have the search codes at the bottom of this section.

These marks will often also contain a detailed description of the mark.  For example, check out this registration for the classic three-circle Mickey Mouse silhouette.  It describes that “The mark consists of three circles which form a silhouette design of a mouse’s head.” And it also clarifies that “Color is not claimed as a feature of the mark.” Followed by a lot of search codes for rodents and geometric shapes.  It’s all to make it easier to find these marks that have no text.

 

 

3: Marks Comprising Words Plus a Design

I think you can see where this one is going: Drawing Code 3 is all about text and illustrations hanging out together.  Here’s an example with OSWALD THE LUCKY RABBIT:

 

USPTO Drawing Codes - Type 3

 

Because there’s text involved in the mark, we have that text displayed over in the “Mark” area on the left. And on the right, we get the full drawing, with both the illustration and text combined.

 

USPTO Drawing Codes - Type 3 Mark Information

 

This one has a fun detailed description.  It covers the character in the illustration, what that character is wearing, how it’s posed, and shows where the illustration appears in relation to the stylized text of the mark.  These type 3 marks will almost always (I’d say “always,” but there could be an exception I haven’t found yet) refer to the wording or text as “stylized,” meaning whatever font or lettering style is shown in the drawing is part of the mark.  If Disney wanted to change this one to a fancy script font, they’d need to apply for a second registration with the art combined with that stylized text.  (Does that mean you can grab Oswald and combine him with other text?  No.)

This mark also has a Disclaimer, which is always nice to see.  They’re disclaiming the word RABBIT, meaning that they aren’t making any claim to that specific word on its own; they’re only claiming it when it’s used in the full phrase OSWALD THE LUCKY RABBIT.  This registration is for stuffed toys and dolls, so Disney is making it clear here that they know they can’t lock down the word RABBIT for all plush toys!  If you’re interested in disclaimers, you can read the USPTO’s section about them.

 

 

4: Standard Character Mark

Here’s the one.  The big Kahuna. The heavyweight champ. This is the drawing code that strikes fear in the hearts of text design artists everywhere.  Code 4 took over for code 1 back in 2003, and now all designs that are just text (words, phrases, numbers) without illustrations, and without any particular color or font or style, are included in Drawing Type 4.

Our example for this type is the phrase IT’S A SMALL WORLD:

 

USPTO Drawing Codes - Type 4

 

The “Mark” area on the left shows the text of the mark, and then the “Drawing” area on the right … also shows the text of the mark.  The drawing will be in uppercase Times New Roman most of the time, though you will see a handful of these in other neutral fonts like Arial or Helvetica.  And some marks will show the drawing in mixed case, but the USPTO doesn’t really care about that; it’ll always show the Mark in all-uppercase.  Here are a couple of examples from December 2021: a mark with a drawing in a plain sans-serif font, and one with the drawing in all lowercase but the mark in all uppercase.

 

USPTO Drawing Codes - Type 4 Mark Information

 

The Mark Information section will almost always be the same on these – short and to-the-point.  They’ll have this same blurb that the mark is just standard characters, with no claim to font, style, or color.

This is the second of the two types of marks that text design artists need to watch out for!  The word or phrase in a Drawing Code 4 mark is owned for the goods and services in that registration, no matter what font is used, or how the text is styled.

 

 

5: Marks Comprising Stylized Letters or Numerals with No Design Features

This is the type that trips up folks the most, because these are marks for a specific word or phrase, just like code 4.  But in a Drawing Code 5 mark like our DISNEY FROZEN example here, the text in the mark is stylized:

 

USPTO Drawing Codes - Type 5

 

This registration isn’t umbrella coverage for the phrase DISNEY FROZEN; it covers the phrase just as it’s shown in the drawing, with the specific fonts or stylized text used. (But does that mean you can make a design of the phrase DISNEY FROZEN using other fonts? No. Disney is such a known entity, you can’t really use their name or most of their marks, no matter which drawing type, without implying the source of goods. Don’t mess with them.)

 

USPTO Drawing Codes - Type 5 Mark Information

 

Usually in the description on these, it just says that the words are stylized; it doesn’t go into a lot of detail about how they’re stylized.  (And yes, every one I’ve looked as has “INSTYLIZED FORM” in there; same as the WORDS(S) we saw before.  I think these are just pre-filled drop-down menu options that have been incorrect since the dawn of time.)

 

 

6: Non-Visual Marks

If you’re a creator of text designs, you could just skip this one.  But why, when it’s my favorite type of mark?  These are marks that, as the category implies, are non-visual.  This code is for sounds, and smells, and textures, and tastes.  There are only 264 live and fully registered marks in this category, which is a tiny, tiny, TINY number.

Here’s one I went specifically looking for: the jingle for Liberty Mutual.

 

USPTO Drawing Codes - Type 6

 

There’s nothing in the “Mark” section, because there isn’t any visual text to the mark.  The drawing is just the generic text “SENSORY MARK.”

The real magic shows up down in Mark Information:

 

USPTO Drawing Codes - Type 6 Mark Information

 

If you’ve heard this jingle, you may have wondered how they made it sound so sad and sour.  Well, it’s by using a mixed-gender group of vocalists, singing in the key of D major, with some very specific notes.  (And if you haven’t heard it, you can go to the Documents tab, look for the Specimen, and get an audio file there!  Or watch one of their commercials on YouTube; the jingle is at the very end.)

There aren’t a ton of marks in this type, because it’s much easier to associate a company name as a source of goods.  It’s harder to associate a sound or smell or other sensory input with a specific brand or source of goods, but many have done it!  There are quite a few jingles and audio cues; I found the Netflix timpani drum, the THX audio sound, tunes for other companies like Nationwide Insurance and State Farm Insurance (those insurance companies sure do love their jingles). But other senses are represented; my favorite find while researching is: “the distinctive smell of mint as applied to bowling balls.”
 
(Don’t ask me, I don’t even. At least it isn’t the taste of mint on bowling balls.)

 

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