Iowa Intellectual Property Blog

The universal peace symbol – unregistrable as a trademark
Jun. 26, 2013The Dickinson Law Newsroom, Iowa Intellectual Property Blog

In a recent decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB), Craigslist, Inc. was unsuccessful in securing federal trademark registration for various services in conjunction with the universal peace symbol (shown to the left).

To function as a trademark or service mark, a mark must identify and distinguish an applicant’s goods or services from those of others and to indicate the source of applicant’s services. In this matter, the TTAB affirmed the examining attorney’s refusal to grant registration based primarily on the argument that the peace symbol is a “pervasive universally-recognized symbol (and has been for over fifty years) that would not be perceived as belonging to any one party . . . from those of another party.”

Supporting the argument against registration, some interesting facts regarding the origin and use of the peace symbol were written.

The internationally recognized symbol for peace was originally designed for the British nuclear disarmament movement in February 1958; later adopted by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament; and further adopted by the 1960s anti-war movement. Although specifically designed for the anti-nuclear movement, it was deliberately not copyrighted and has become known worldwide for peace and non-violence. The peace symbol can now be found virtually in any context and consistently is used to convey messages of peace.

The long standing meaning of the peace symbol universally recognized and known for peace and non-violence was found to retain its message regardless of context and, therefore, is incapable of distinguishing the source of a specific goods or services from other goods or services. So for now, and presumably well into the future, the universal peace symbol is free for all to use.


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