On April 19th the United States Patent and Trademark Office finally rejected an application for the trademark open source hardware. The grounds for the rejection were that the term was “merely descriptive.”
Trademarks are intended to identify a specific source of goods or services, protecting that source from confusion in the minds of consumers with other sources. Naturally then, if you try to obtain a trademark which is just a description of a type of product or service, it is proper that you should be refused; it would not be distinctive and it would distort the market by allowing one source to control the generic term. If I market a car for a hamster, I should not be able to get a trademark for the name hamster car, as that would improperly restrain competitors from bringing their own hamster cars to market. So, should we be pleased that the application was rejected?