Any application to register a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Offices (USPTO) must include at least one trademark “classification.”
This classification greatly impacts the breadth of the intellectual property (IP) holder’s trademark protection. For that reason, it’s critically important for any potential IP holder to understand the different classes.
In this article, we’ll cover Class 4 Trademark goods. This is a fairly narrow category of trademark classification that includes all industrial oils, fuels, and illuminants.
Why Should I File for a Class 4 Trademark?
By registering for a trademark, you’re essentially claiming that certain words, symbols, sounds, or other trademarks are unique to your business. This gives you the exclusive right to use those marks as a part of your brand.
By prohibiting other companies from infringing on your mark, the trademark system reduces confusion among customers, allowing them to know exactly what they’re buying.
Note, however, that a trademark only restricts competitors within your trademark class. That’s why there’s both a Delta Airlines and a Delta Faucet Company—both have the name “Delta” registered under different trademark classes.
The USPTO is fairly strict about this class
For this reason, you need to make sure that your trademark application uses the correct trademark class,
Finally, note that there are additional fees for registering under more than one trademark class.
What are Class 4 Trademark Goods?
The first thing you should note is that trademark Class 4 only applies to goods, not services. In addition, those goods must be industrial oils, fuels, or illuminants, or be directly related to their use.
Any type of fuel (and the branding thereof) is likely to count as a Class 4 trademark.
This includes both liquid fuels, such as gasoline or some alcohols, as well as solid fuels like coal. It also includes many green energy services, even those that would otherwise avoid the term “fuel.”
Because this is a fairly broad category, it includes a few things that might not be immediately obvious.
For example, many brands related to wood and lumber file under a Class 4 trademark. Likewise, power companies frequently file under Class 4 because the USPTO considers electrical energy itself as a type of fuel.
The USPTO defines industrial oils quite broadly. For this reason, most lubricants and preserving oils count as Class 4 trademark goods.
A slightly antiquated category, “illuminants” in this sense refers to fuel used for lighting devices which rely on oil and other similar products. In a similar manner, this category also includes candles and tapers.
The USPTO has noticed that individuals who file for Class 4 trademarks often file under other trademark classes as well.
For that reason, they consider the following classes “coordinated.” This simply means that it’s a good idea to make sure that your good or service doesn’t also fall into these categories before you file.
The coordinated classes for class 4 trademarks are:
- Class 1 (Chemicals): customers are unlikely to know the technical distinctions between chemical compounds, fuels, and oils. For that reason, it’s extremely common to file under both classes.
- Class 35 (Advertising and Business Services) and Class 37 (Construction and Repair Services): If you intend to offer services to certain types of businesses, you may need to file under one or both of these classes.
- Class 42 (Science and Technology Services): If you want to do more than simply sell your product, it’s possible that you may want to file under class 42 as well.
If you’re worried about filing under the right trademark classes, be sure to consult with a trademark lawyer.
Before you file, it’s a good idea to double-check that your application doesn’t have any of the following problems.
Trademark applications are expensive and time-consuming, after all, and a misfiled application can lead to legal issues down the road.
Problems with Existing Trademarks
The most common reason for a trademark to be rejected (or worse, overturned later) is that a similar trademark already exists in the same class.
Problems with Trademark Categories
Trademark classes can be complicated, and its common to realize after the fact that you should have applied to a different class.
Frequently, a misclassified trademark will come up in an office action. An attorney at the USPTO will send you an email to tell you that the international class you filed in is inappropriate for the mark you are using.
If you haven’t hired an attorney by that point, you should probably hire an attorney to help you respond.
How Should I Use My Class 4 Trademark?
Ultimately, registering for your trademark is only half the battle.
In order to keep your trademark, you’ll need to actually use it to fight infringement. Otherwise, the court may rule that you’ve abandoned your trademark, at which point you will lose your exclusive right to it.
The good news is that holding a trademark will give you the opportunity to fight infringement. In addition to accidental infringement, you’ll also be able to protect your trademark from fraud and unauthorized re-selling.
Note that fair use still applies. In general, use of your trademark which has no potential to create market confusion is not trademark infringement.
At the end of the day, filing for a trademark is the best way to protect your brand and products.
However, it’s essential that you do as much research as you can beforehand, to make sure that you hit the right categories with your first filing.
That’s why it’s so important to have an experienced trademark lawyer by your side. A trademark attorney can help you navigate the common pitfalls that most business fall into when registering their first mark.