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US Patent Office denies GPT trademark to OpenAI

OpenAI argued that common use of the term GPT could lead to ‘infringement issues’ wherein users are likely to assume that products with the ‘GPT’ in their names are associated with ChatGPT.

Open AI’s application to trademark the term ‘GPT’ has been denied by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for being too general.

According to the USPTO, by trademarking the term ‘GPT’, which is an acronym for ‘Generative Pre-trained Transformers’, OpenAI’s competitors would be unable to accurately describe their product.

What did OpenAI say

In its application, OpenAI argued that its chatbot ChatGPT popularised the term ‘GPT’. They said that ‘GPT’ is not simply a general descriptive term. It is unlikely that users would know the definition of  ‘Generative Pre-trained Transformers’ as a “neural network model that gives applications the ability to create human-like text and content and answer questions in a conversational manner.”

Instead, they argued that a model tagged ‘GPT’ is commonly understood to be a model with ‘ask and answer functions’ to generate information. This owing to the term’s association with ChatGPT’s much more popular ‘ask and answer model.’

They believe that the common use of the term GPT could lead to ‘infringement issues’ and ‘inhibit competition’ in the market, wherein users are likely to assume that products with the ‘GPT’ in their names are associated with ChatGPT.

What did the USPTO say 

In response to OpenAI’s arguments, the USPTO said that ‘GPT’ “merely describes a feature, function, or characteristic of applicant’s goods and services.”

“The fact that consumers may not know the underlying words of the acronym [GPT] does not alter the fact that relevant purchasers are adapted to recognizing that the term “GPT” is commonly used in connection with software to identify a particular type of software that features this AI ask and answer technology. Accordingly, this argument is not persuasive.”

They stated that using the term ‘GPT’ or ‘Generative Pre-trained Transformers’ would be necessary to describe a product accurately, like software featuring neural network models. Evidence from the internet for the same was also shared.

Further, they stated that OpenAI was unable to provide sufficient evidence to prove that the term ‘GPT’ was being used in a fashion that could be classified as infringement.

What does this mean for OpenAI

OpenAI has another opportunity to appeal for a trademark. This would require them to give adequate proof of ‘GPT’ being used as a non-descriptive word for commercial gain.

This is the second time OpenAI’s application has been denied. They had previously applied in December 2022 and were denied in May 2023.

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