Skip to main content

Snap suing to trademark the word ‘spectacles’ for its smart glasses

Snap suing to trademark the word ‘spectacles’ for its smart glasses

/

The company has been battling with the US patent office for five years

Share this story

Snap wants to trademark the word Spectacles for its smart glasses
Snap wants to trademark the word Spectacles for its smart glasses
Photo by Amanda Lopez for The Verge

Snap is suing the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for rejecting its application to trademark the word “spectacles” for its digital eyewear camera device. But the USPTO has maintained that “spectacles” is a generic term for smart glasses and that Snap’s version “has not acquired distinctiveness,” as required for a trademark.

In its complaint filed Wednesday in US District Court in California, Snap claims that the Spectacles name “evokes an incongruity between an 18th century term for corrective eyewear and Snap’s high-tech 21st century smart glasses. SPECTACLES also is suggestive of the camera’s purpose, to capture and share unusual, notable, or entertaining scenes (i.e., “spectacles”) and while also encouraging users to make ‘spectacles’ of themselves.”

Snap first introduced its camera-equipped Spectacles in 2016 (“a wearable digital video camera housed in a pair of fashionable sunglasses,” according to its complaint), which can take photos and videos while the user wears them and connects with the Snap smartphone app. Despite selling them both online and in pop-up vending machines around the world, the first iteration of Spectacles mostly flopped with consumers. In its 2017 third-quarter earnings report, Snap said it had lost nearly $40 million on some 300,000 unsold Spectacles.

In May 2021, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel showed off an augmented reality version of the Spectacles, which so far are available only to a small group of creators and reviewers chosen by the company. The AR Spectacles aren’t yet available for purchase by the general public.

Snap’s new complaint posits that there’s been enough media coverage of Spectacles, bolstered by some industry awards and its own marketing including social media, to support its claim that consumers associate the word “spectacles” with the Snap brand. Snap first filed a trademark application for Spectacles in September 2016, “for use in connection with wearable computer hardware” and other related uses “among consumer electronics devices and displays.”

During several rounds of back-and-forth with the company since then, the USPTO has maintained that the word “spectacles” appeared to be “generic in connection with the identified goods,” i.e. the camera glasses. Snap continued to appeal the agency’s decision.

In a November 2021 opinion, the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (pdf) upheld the decision, reiterating that the word “spectacles” was a generic term that applied to all smart glasses, not just Snap’s version. Despite the publicity Snap claimed its Spectacles had received from its marketing and social media, the board noted in its opinion that Spectacles’ “social media accounts have an underwhelming number of followers, and the number of followers is surprisingly small,” which didn’t support the company’s argument that there had been a high enough level of consumer exposure to Snap’s Spectacles to claim that consumers associated the word with Snap’s brand.

In its Tuesday complaint, Snap’s attorneys argued that “spectacles is an old-fashioned term popular in the 18th century,” and that it “is not often used today in the United States,” especially by Snapchat’s young audience. “This indicates that modern-day usage of “spectacles” in the United States—especially among a younger demographic of consumers who are the relevant consumers of Snap’s SPECTACLES camera product—is not commonly understood to mean eyeglasses, and certainly not a wireless-enabled video camera product.”

But the USPTO appeal board said in November that the evidence didn’t support that argument, and that the word “spectacles” still retains its generic meaning and therefore can’t be trademarked. The board noted that in its own marketing, Snap had demonstrated that its Spectacles “eyeglasses form is a feature, function and characteristic of the camera, not only functionally but aesthetically.”

Snap’s lawsuit, which names acting USPTO director Drew Hirshfeld, seeks to have the appeal board’s November decision reversed. The company declined to provide a comment on the record to The Verge.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 25 Not just you

E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 25
Rihanna’s headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Apple Music’s set to sponsor the Halftime Show next February, and it’s starting out strong with a performance from Rihanna. I honestly can’t remember which company sponsored the Halftime Show before Pepsi, so it’ll be nice to see how Apple handles the show for Super Bowl LVII.


E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 25
Starlink is growing.

The Elon Musk-owned satellite internet service, which covers all seven continents including Antarctica, has now made over 1 million user terminals. Musk has big plans for the service, which he hopes to expand to cruise ships, planes, and even school buses.

Musk recently said he’ll sidestep sanctions to activate the service in Iran, where the government put restrictions on communications due to mass protests. He followed through on his promise to bring Starlink to Ukraine at the start of Russia’s invasion, so we’ll have to wait and see if he manages to bring the service to Iran as well.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 25
We might not get another Apple event this year.

While Apple was initially expected to hold an event to launch its rumored M2-equipped Macs and iPads in October, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicts Apple will announce its new devices in a series of press releases, website updates, and media briefings instead.

I know that it probably takes a lot of work to put these polished events together, but if Apple does pass on it this year, I will kind of miss vibing to the livestream’s music and seeing all the new products get presented.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.


Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
A
Youtube
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.


A
The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.