U.S. Patent Office Rejects OpenAI Bid to Trademark ‘GPT’

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has denied OpenAI’s attempt to trademark the term “GPT,” referencing ChatGPT and other products with the name. GPT stands for generative pre-trained transformer, describing the machine learning approach. The USPTO ruled that “GPT” is descriptive of the technology itself and, therefore, not something that can be trademarked.


The decision states the acronym GPT was already widely used in AI contexts prior to ChatGPT’s rise. OpenAI argued it popularized GPT, but could not claim exclusive ownership of the term. The company wanted trademark protection to push back against competitors it believes are piggybacking on its branding without any legal way to push back. There are a lot of ‘GPT’ products out there, some using OpenAI’s APIs and some just using the term, including ‘CatGPT, ‘SpeakGPT,’  ‘ChatGP,’ and ‘GPType.’ The USPTO decision reflects the challenges of trademarks for common tech terms.

“Registration is refused because the applied-for mark merely describes a feature, function, or characteristic of applicant’s goods and services,” the rejection document states. “The previously and presently attached Internet evidence demonstrates the extensive and pervasive use in applicant’s software industry of the acronym “GPT” in connection with software that features similar AI technology with ask and answer functions based on pre-trained data sets; the fact that consumers may not know the underlying words of the acronym 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.”

While clearly not what OpenAI hoped for, the decision doesn’t impact how much of the public’s perception links GPTs with OpenAI and thinks of the company as preeminent in the space. That’s especially true regarding ChatGPT’s branding, which is the basis for much of the cultural discussion and references.  While it limits OpenAI’s control over GPT, the startup retains its lead in consumer awareness for now. But, without a trademark, GPT could become as generic as Kleenex or Band-Aid in how people discuss the broader technology.



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