No “GPT” brand for OpenAI


The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected OpenAI’s attempt to trademark “GPT,” ruling that the term is “merely descriptive” and therefore cannot be registered. It’s a blow to OpenAI’s brand image, but don’t expect its competitors to start releasing their own version of the ubiquitous chatbot.

ChatGPT is certainly the most recognizable brand in AI today, being the most popular conversational model on the market and the one that has most visibly moved major language models from curiosity to global trend.

But the name, according to the USPTO, does not meet the standards for registering a trademark and the protections offered by a “TM” after the name. (By the way, they declined once in October, and that was an all-caps “FINAL” denial of the application.)

As the refusal document says:

Registration is refused because the mark applied for merely describes a feature, function or characteristic of the applicant’s goods and services.

OpenAI argued that it popularized the term GPT, which in this case stands for “pre-trained generative transformer”, describing the nature of the machine learning model. It is generative because it produces new(ish) material, pre-trained in that it is a large model trained centrally on a proprietary database, and Transform is the name of a particular method AI construction (discovered by Google researchers in 2017) which allows much larger models to be trained.

But the Patent Office pointed out that GPT was already used in many other contexts and by other companies in related contexts. For example, Amazon has a list of what a GPT is and how they use them. And many others

The argument on the patent side is that GPT describes an aspect of the product. Like if you had a cereal called Crunchy O’s and you tried to describe it as “crunchy.” In the case of ChatGPT, it is a GPT-like AI model – a concept that OpenAI did not create and is not the only one to offer – that you are chatting with. It may be recognizable, but it doesn’t meet trademark requirements.

It may be that this lack of branding dilutes OpenAI’s dominance over GPT-related terminology. You can expect things like an unrelated “TalkGPT” to appear in app stores (indeed, they’re already there, and plenty of them) – and OpenAI can’t sue them for using their brand.

That said, OpenAI has by far the largest share of mind when someone says “GPT”, so even though their legal protections are limited, they retain first-brand advantage. If anything, they can double down on GPT branding, brands be damned, to make sure everyone knows OpenAI did it first (or close enough).


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