"Y Combinator" Too Generic To Trademark

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has ruled against startup and censorship incubator Y Combinator's petition to register their name as a trademark (archived). The office in making the decision noted that "Y Combinator" as a term of art used in computer science and mathematics is by its nature too generic to stand as a distinguishing mark denoting a particular trade venture.

4 thoughts on “"Y Combinator" Too Generic To Trademark

  1. There was no ruling. The TM examiner (minor trademark bureaucrat) issued a non-final refusal, which just says basically "explain to me why this mark should be entitled to federal registration — it looks ineligible to me." I think Y Combinator should be able to overcome fairly easily, b/c the term of art y combinator does not have anything to do with the claimed services of business coaching, and therefore is not descriptive. This back-and-forth is a standard part of prosecuting a TM registration application, not a newsworthy event. TM examiners often get it wrong, they work on quota.

    • Until appealed that little examiner's opinion is that of the whole patent and trademark office. Right now it seems someone actually cares enough to not hand that cesspool a word real people use. Maybe when more idiotic people get involved they win on appeal. Until then Y-Combinator(TM) can eat a dick.

      • Why do we even need trademark registration? Even if you think IP is a useful juridical construct (I'm sure no one reading this does) trademarks are not properly "intellectual property" as such. We don't offer trademark registration to give brands an "incentive to innovate" or anything like that. No, trademark law has grown out of the need to police folks from passing off their shitty goods and services under their competitors' good names. But once you establish a federal bureaucracy to accord special registered rights status, money and lobbying comes into the picture. And you end up with a system that accords a sort of property right that was never envisioned in the US Constitution, and has less and less to do with actual passing-off. And more to do with stupidity like suing your competitor b/c you think you own the color green in connection with financial services, or something.

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