Could “PO Box” possibly be a protectable trademark?
Yes… but only for non-postal services in my opinion. “PO Box” could be the name of a band. Or the name of a board game. Or some other product or services. But yesterday at my local post office I saw the sign below and snapped a picture. Apparently the U.S. Postal Service believes that “PO Box” should have a “TM” symbol next to it because it is their brand name and they seek protection for it. Any they use it on the USPS website too, so it is not a fluke. See https://www.usps.com/manage/get-a-po-box.htm.
“PO Box” seems generic to me. It is a box. At the post office. Need I say any more? While the photo and website clearly indicate use of “TM”, I could not find any evidence of USPS having filed to register “PO Box” with the USPTO.
And if “PO Box” was a trademark, I believe it would actually for for a service, namely the rental of an address and storage for delivery of mail. So any use of “PO Box”, if it was protectable, should be accompanied by “SM”, not “TM”.
Looks like the Postal Service has a host of trademark issues. The very same Postal Service that is nearly bankrupt, operating at a huge loss, and closing locations. The USPS has filed more than 75 new trademark applications since the start of 2010, including “FIRST-CLASS PACKAGE” and “US POSTAGE PAID“, and “PRIORITY MAIL FLAT RATE“!
It is curious that the nice logo used on the sign for PO Box services looks creative and likely could be registered and protected for postal services. Yet it contains no trademark notice.
Postal Service believes that “PO Box” should have a “TM” symbol.
“A box at the post office” is the definition of specific and protectable. UPS apparently thinks so, too, as they don’t call their mailboxes “PO Boxes”. I agree that it should be a service mark instead of a trademark, but that’s a pedantic distinction that doesn’t change the term’s protectability. Of course unrelated industries can use the name, that’s not the issue. The rapper “qtip” has been known as that for over 3 decades, even though Unilever still owns the trademark. I think you’re just offended that the USPS has the audacity to act like a corporation, which it technically is.