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Snap Makes a Spectacle of Itself Over Trademark Dispute

Brett Trout

Snap, Inc., the owners of Snapchat and Bitmoji, are also a the self-styled “camera” company, and have been selling augmented reality (AR) glasses under the name “Spectacles” since 2016. Snap is currently on its fourth-generation AR glasses system, currently only being provided to a select number of AR technology developers to assist them in developing applications for the latest version of the Spectacles.

According to documents Snap has filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Snap has been using the name “Spectacles” in association with electronic publishing services since August 14, 2017, obtaining a federal registered trademark for that use on January 21, 2020 (Reg. No. 5,964,422). USPTO documents also reveal Snap’s claim to have been using the word “Spectacles” in association with “wearable computer peripherals” since November 11, 2016 (See. No. 87/177,292), but that trademark application has been repeatedly rejected by the USPTO.

For the wearable peripheral application, namely Snap’s AR glasses, the Trademark Examiner at the UPSTO has rejected Snap’s trademark application, arguing the mark is “generic,” “merely descriptive,” and has insufficient evidence supporting Snap’s contention that the mark as the “acquired distinctiveness” necessary for trademark registration. Not surprisingly Snap disagreed with the Trademark Examiner and appealed the Examiner’s rejection. In November of 2021, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB), the body responsible for hearing trademark disputes with the USPTO, issued a ruling siding with the Examiner in rejecting Snap’s trademark application.

Undeterred, on January 5, 2022, Snap filed a federal lawsuit in the Central District of California requesting the federal court to overturn the decision of the TTAB, arguing the “term “spectacles” is an old-fashioned term popular in the 18th century. It is not often used today in the United States—especially by the younger demographic of consumers of Snap’s SPECTACLES camera product—but when used, it is almost always meant to describe corrective eyewear.”

Last year’s adverse ruling from the TTAB, combined with the century-long ubiquitous use of the generic word “spectacles” for glasses, make Snap’s success in this lawsuit a long shot. But given the time and resources Snap has expended to date, it appears unlikely that even an adverse ruling from this district court will dissuade Snap from its Sisyphean battle to lock down the Spectacles trademark on its latest AR glasses.

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