Federal Circuit Receives Criticism for Rejecting Trademark Application for ‘Get Ordained’

August 9, 2023


The recent decision by the Federal Circuit to refuse a trademark application for the phrase ‘Get Ordained’ has sparked significant controversy and criticism. The refusal, based on the grounds of being merely descriptive and lacking distinctiveness, has raised concerns about the impact on religious organizations and individuals seeking ordination online.


The case centered around a company’s attempt to secure a trademark for the term ‘Get Ordained’ in order to promote their online platform offering ordination services. The Federal Circuit’s decision, however, hinged on the argument that the phrase is a common descriptor for the process of becoming ordained and lacks the inherent uniqueness required for trademark protection.


Critics of the decision argue that it overlooks the evolving nature of online religious services. In an era where many people are turning to the internet for various religious and spiritual needs, the phrase ‘Get Ordained’ holds significant value as a recognizable term for those seeking online ordination. Detractors of the refusal suggest that the court failed to consider the modern context in which the term is being used, thereby misjudging its potential to function as a source identifier for the company’s services.


Furthermore, opponents contend that the decision could have far-reaching implications for online religious organizations and individuals aiming to offer legitimate ordination services. Obtaining a trademark provides a layer of protection and credibility to these entities, ensuring that their offerings are easily distinguishable in the marketplace. The refusal to grant trademark status to ‘Get Ordained’ might hinder such organizations’ ability to effectively communicate their services to a wider audience, potentially impeding their growth and outreach efforts.


This case also raises broader questions about the criteria for trademark protection in the digital age. As language and terminology evolve alongside technological advancements, the assessment of distinctiveness and descriptiveness becomes more complex. Determining whether a phrase like ‘Get Ordained’ is merely descriptive or has acquired secondary meaning requires a careful analysis of the contemporary usage and consumer perception.


In response to the criticism, proponents of the refusal emphasize the importance of maintaining the integrity of trademark law. They argue that granting trademark protection to commonplace phrases could lead to the monopolization of everyday language, stifling competition and limiting consumer choice. From this perspective, the decision to reject the ‘Get Ordained’ trademark application aligns with the fundamental principle of trademark law to protect distinctive marks that truly serve as source identifiers.


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