Trademarks that are merely a surname are marks that consist merely of a last name or family. These marks are not immediately eligible for trademark registration absent a showing of acquired distinctiveness. This rule of law is based on the social policy that people should be entitled to use their own surname in business in connection with a product or service. The trademark examiner may look at several factors to determine whether or not the mark is merely a surname. Among these factors are how common or rare is the surname, whether the surname is associated with any of the trademark applicants, and whether the trademark has other meanings other than as a surname.
However, once the public associates the surname with a particular source of the product or service, the surname has acquired so-called secondary meaning. This may occur through substantially exclusive and continuous use of the surname in commerce in connection with the goods or services. In this case, the mark is said to have acquired distinctiveness and may be eligible for trademark registration.