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Why punctuation matters in trademark applications

Your grade school teachers were right when they said that punctuation matters -- at least if you're applying for a trademark. One young woman learned that the hard way after her trademark application for a make-up kit was rejected last month by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The applicant, who likely wasn't widely known to many people older than 25 until recently, is Olivia Jade Giannulli. She became one of the faces of the college admissions scandal when her parents were charged with felonies for allegedly bribing officials with the University of Southern California (USC) to help her and her sister get into the school. Giannulli's parents are fashion designer Massimo Giannulli and actress Lori Loughlin.

The 19-year-old has made a name for herself as a YouTube celebrity and an "influencer." While getting into USC was apparently an important goal for her parents, Olivia Jade told her YouTube followers, "I don't know how much of school I'm gonna attend. But I'm gonna go in and talk to my deans and everyone, and hope that I can try and balance it all. But I do want the experience of, like, game days, partying... I don't really care about school, as you guys all know."

Giannulli sought to trademark the name "Olivia Jade" to be used on make-up kits. However, it was the contents of those kits that confused the people at the USPTO. For one thing, it was unclear from the application precisely how many products were included. The application reportedly included a reference, for example, to "make-up setting spray lipstick lip gloss."

In rejecting her initial application, the USPTO wrote, "Proper punctuation in identifications is necessary to delineate explicitly each product or service within a list and to avoid ambiguity. Commas, semicolons, and apostrophes are the only punctuation that should be used."

There was also a lack of specificity regarding some of the items. The USPTO said that "the nature of 'moisturizer' and 'concealer' must be further specified."

Giannulli apparently corrected the issues, because her application is now advancing to the next step in the process.

The trademark application process can be a drawn-out, complex one even when the application is correctly and clearly completed. It's wise to seek the guidance of an intellectual property attorney to help things go as smoothly as possible.

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