Geographic terms are words that describe a location or contain names of regions of the world (countries, states, counties, districts, cities, neighborhoods, mountains, lakes, rivers, etc). If geographic terms are used in a trademark to describe where the products are made or services performed, the trademark will typically be unregisterable unless the terms have acquired distinctiveness or attained secondary meaning in the eyes of consumers. The Lanham Act describes four different types of geographic terms: (1) primarily geographically descriptive terms, (2) geographically deceptive terms, (3) primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive terms, and (4) regional certification marks.
Primarily Geographically Descriptive Terms
Primarily geographically descriptive terms are words that describe the geographic origin of a product and/or service and are typically not registrable when the primary meaning of the trademark is the name of a location that is generally known to the public, the public would believe the goods/services originate in that location, and the goods/services actually do originate in that location. A geographically descriptive trademark may, however, achieve trademark registration if the mark attains a secondary meaning. This requires that the trademark applicant show that consumers associate the word or phrase with the source of the products or services offered.