A client of mine recently asked about the affect punctuation has on trademark registration/rights (such as “Yahoo! or “Guess?”). In order to answer this question, it is important to understand what we call in trademark law as the “spectrum of distinctiveness.” One of the factors used in determining the strength and distinctivenss of a mark is the meaning of the words, something that the punctuation is unlikely to affect.
This is also true for the way the mark sounds. For example, Shake ‘n Bake isn’t any stronger than Shake and Bake because the two sound nearly identical. A TTAB ruling said that “the addition of punctuation marks to a descriptive term would not ordinarily change the term into a non-descriptive one.” However, the TTAB has acknowledged that punctuation in an acronym “lends a visual distinction” which can be helpful to distinguish your mark from others.
Thus, it is unlikely that adding punctuation to a mark will assist the owner in obtaining trademark registration.
For more information on Seattle Trademark law, consider contacting a Seattle Trademark Attorney.