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, and make sure you register in the right international class.
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 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 IP, 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.
You can register under a number of different trademark classes. However, you must either have goods or intend to produce goods that fall into those categories.
The USPTO is fairly strict about this requirement and will reject applications that seem poorly defined. Finally, note that there are additional fees for registering under more than one trademark class.
What are Class 4 Trademark Goods?
Trademark Class 4 only applies to goods, not services. In addition, those goods must be (or be directly related to) industrial oils, fuels, or illuminants.
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 a good as well as a service.
The USPTO defines industrial oils quite broadly. As such, most lubricants and preserving oils are class 4 trademark goods. Note that this includes vegetable oils intended for industrial purposes, but not cooking oils. Those are almost always class 29 or class 30 goods instead.
A slightly antiquated category, “illuminants” in this sense refers to fuel for lighting devices as well as candles and tapers. It does not include electrical lights or lighting systems themselves, which are covered under categories 9 and 11.
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 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.
- 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.
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. That’s why it’s important to check the USPTO database before you file. For a more thorough search, you will need the help of a trademark lawyer.
It’s common to come across trademarks that seem similar, but not identical to the one that you are filing for. Unfortunately, the USPTO’s policy is not to advise potential IP holders before they file. That’s why you’ll need to rely on your lawyer’s advice to figure out a solution.
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.
What Does My Class 4 Trademark Do?
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.