John Welch writes over at TTABlog today about the recent refusal of Craigslist’s application to register a trademark for the peace symbol. It is a very interesting post on a not-frequently-seen area of trademark law. While generally a trademark can be registered on anything that functions to differentiate the source of a product or service, some things don’t fit that meaning. Universal symbols are symbols which convey informational messages or are ornamental. Such marks are generally important for what their messages convey, rather than for what the marks themselves convey. And the peace symbol is an easy example: it conveys a message of peace.
Universal marks are registrable if the applicant adds something distinctive. A good example of this might be the Infiniti car company’s variation on the infinity mark.