Snap sues US Patent Office to claim a trademark for ‘Spectacles’

The agency says the term is too generic to trademark.


Snapchat creator Snap has sued the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for rejecting an application the company had filed to trademark the word “spectacles” in relation to its wearable of the same name. In a complaint spotted by The Verge, Snap claims its usage of the term “evokes an incongruity between an 18th-century term for corrective eyewear and Snap’s high-tech 21st-century smart glasses.”

The complaint stems from an ongoing disagreement between Snap and the USPTO over whether “spectacles” is a term that can be applied to any pair of smart glasses. In an opinion the agency’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board published in November, the USPTO said Snap’s use of Spectacles had failed to acquire the “distinctiveness” necessary for a trademark. “Spectacles is so commonly used to describe the nature of the product or competing products, rather than any particular source of the product(s),” the USPTO said at the time. In suing the USPTO, Snap hopes to overturn the appeal board’s decision.

Snap first filed for a Spectacles trademark in 2016, the same year it released the first-generation model. Despite a clever marketing campaign involving Minion-like vending machines, the wearable was a bust for the company. At one point, Snap reportedly had thousands of unsold pairs collecting dust in Chinese warehouses. However, even after losing $40 million on the first version, it went on to release two new models and recently debuted a pair of augmented reality Spectacles.

To that end, Snap claims, thanks to social media marketing, word of mouth and media coverage, consumers have come to associate the word “spectacles” with its brand, a claim the USPTO disputes. In the same November opinion, the agency wrote Spectacles’ “social media accounts have an underwhelming number of followers, and the number of followers is surprisingly small.”