UPDATED on 4/3/2012
Can the phrase “passive house” be trademarked? If the answer is yes, has any organization claimed the trademark yet?
I decided to research these questions after I noticed a comment posted by Nils Davis on the Web site of the Silicon Valley Passive Building Coalition: “Passive House is a trademark of the Passive House Institute U.S.” That sentence made me sit up and pay attention — after all, if the phrase “passive house” is trademarked, it might be hard for builders of traditional passive solar homes to use the phrase in their marketing materials.
I e-mailed Davis for more information. He responded, “At the time I wrote that I had been informed by Katrin Klingenberg (in a March 2009 e-mail) that the PHIUS had applied for trademark protection for Passive House and several associated terms.”
A rush to the trademark office
Clearly, interest in trademarks is heating up in the Passivhaus community. The following advice was posted by C.A. Snyder on the Web site of the Michigan Energy Efficiency Network: “If you are interested in what Certified Passive Houses offer, protect your interests by looking for the trademarked logo and phrase ‘Certified Passive House.’ ”
The Web site of a Wisconsin newspaper, the Hudson Star-Observer, reported that “The term passive house is the trademark name for a type of German-engineered building that is so well-insulated and air-tight it is warmed mostly by the sun.”
Someone posting on an Irish energy-advice Web site claimed that “‘Passive House’ is a trademark held by the Passivhaus Institute of Darmstadt, Germany.” Hmm, I wondered — could that be true? Does anyone own the phrase “passive house”?
What does the U.S. Trademark Office say?
Although it’s hard to do a thorough trademark search without investing a fair amount of money, it’s possible to do…