Archive | Trademarks

Sharply Different Meanings of Marks Avoids Confusion

PrayThenSlayWhen considering whether two trademarks are similar for conflict purposes, the marks are considered in their entireties, including their appearance, sound, and commercial impression. Sometimes one of those attributes stands out to distinguish the marks even when similarities exist in the other attributes.

Manuel Tellez applied to register the mark SLAY OR PREY for apparel. The USPTO Examining Attorney refused registration based on a likelihood of confusion with Registration no. 5,066,234 for the mark PRAY THEN SLAY (and design) for t-shirts.

On appeal, the Board reversed the Examining Attorney’s refusal to register, finding the two marks had sharply different meanings.

The Board acknowledged that the appearance and sound of the marks were somewhat similar because (1) the marks shared the term “slay” and (2) “pray” and “prey” of the marks were …

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Designating Different Trademark Classes Does Not Avoid a Conflict Between Marks

REALORANGEAnn Peterson applied to register the word-and-design mark REAL ORANGE for Christian ministry services in class 45.

The reThink Group, Inc opposed the registration based on its prior registration for the word-and-design mark of ORANGE for electronic downloadable publications and prerecorded media, print material, and educational services related to church ministry, among other services in class 9, 16, and 41. 

One factor in determining whether there is a conflict between two marks is whether the goods/services provided under the respective marks are similar.

ORANGEPeterson argued her services were different from the goods and services of reThink’s mark because they were in different International Classes: class 45 in Peterson’s case and Classes 9, 16, and 41 in reThink’s case. Each trademark applicant must (1) provide a description of goods and/or

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Limits on Use of Crowded Market Evidence to Show Weak Trademark Rights

AMIGOSDurrset Amigos Ltd (Durrset) filed a petition to cancel Amigo Meat Distributors’ (AMD) trademark registration on the mark AMIGOS FOODS for the services of wholesale meat products distributorship.

As a basis to cancel, Durrset asserted its common law mark AMIGOS FOODS and its registration for AMIGOS in a stylized form for “prepared tortillas, taco sauce, picante sauce (hot sauce) and taco shells” and for the services of “manufacturing and packaging food to the order and specification of others.”

The TTAB (Board) found that the parties’ marks and the parties’ goods were similar in Durrset Amigos, Ltd. v. Amigos Meat Distributors, L.P., No. 92060896 (TTAB 2017). AMD tried to save its registration by asserting that Durrset’s AMIGOS FOODS mark was extremely weak due to third party uses of AMIGOS marks in the “general area of …

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$200M in Annual Sales Under Highly Descriptive Mark Insufficient to Establish Trademark Rights

When you have a highly descriptive mark, even hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales under the mark may not be enough to establish trademark rights.

magnestiaMagnesita Refractories Company (MRC) applied to register the mark MAGNESITA in two trademark applications for refractory products in class 19 and for online services related to using refractory products in class 37.

The USPTO found that the mark was generic for refractory products in class 19, and the appeals court agreed in In re Magnesita Refractories Company, 2016-2345 (Fed. Cir. 2017).

The court also found that MRC failed to show that the mark acquired distinctiveness in connection with the class 37 services. A mark has acquired distinctiveness when “the primary significance of the term in the minds of the consuming public is …

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How to Position a Trademark Application to Avoid Conflict with a Similar Mark

US_TM_Reg4137026Nikon Corporation filed a trademark application to register the mark MMD for the goods of (1) laser scanners for industrial inspection and for geometrical measurement, and not for use with land surveying equipment, and (2) software for collection and interpretation of data in the operation of laser scanners, not for use with land surveying equipment. The USPTO trademark examining attorney refused registration based on prior registration no. 4137026 of the mark MMD (and dog design, shown to the right of this paragraph) for land surveying equipment.

The Trademark Trial and Appeals (Board) found that the marks were similar because while the prior registration contained a graphical dog, words “are normally accorded greater weight because the words are likely to make an impression upon purchasers.”

The Board also found the goods of both marks were related …

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Tagline Not In Trademark Application Cannot Distinguish Prior Mark

P.T. Arista Latindo (“Arista”) sought to register the trademark SENSI for diapers, among other things. The USPTO refused the registration in connection with diapers on the basis of two prior registrations for the mark SENSI-CARE (Tm Reg. Nos. 2618533, 3640455) for skin care products for treating and preventing diaper rash.

Arista argued that there was no likelihood of confusion between its mark and the SENSI-CARE marks because Arista uses a tagline “Sensible way of living” on its website. It argued that customers would assume its SENI mark means “sensible,” considering its tagline, whereas consumers would see SENI in the prior SENI-CARE marks as referring to “sensitive.”

The problem is that Airsta’s tagline was not in its trademark application. On appeal, the court said that the USPTO “must only compare the …

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How to Destroy Your Trade Dress Rights in a Product Design

Illinois Tool Works (ITW) was the owner of three product design trademark registrations used in connection with resealable plastic bags. ITW licensed these trademarks to third parties, including S.C. Johnson. S.C. Johnson appears to use these designs in its ZIPLOC branded bags. The product design trademarks (a.k.a. trade dress) are directed to a colored stripe extending across the top of a bag. Tm Reg. Nos. 0946120, 1055114, 1294243. An example figure from the Registration No. 0946120 follows.


Poly-America, L.P. petitioned the USPTO to cancel these trademark registrations. [Poly-America, L.P. v. Illinois Tool Works, No. 92056833 (TTAB 2017)]. Poly-America asserted that the mark of each was ineligible for registration because the color stripe was functional.

Obtaining trademark protection over a product design or a portion of a product design is not easy. This is …

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Google’s Trademark Survives Genericide Attack Despite Use as a Verb

Google’s trademark was attacked by two individuals who claimed that the GOOGLE trademark was generic for the act of internet searching in the case of Elliott v. Google, Inc., No 15-15809 (9th Cir. 2017). The owner of a valid trademark can become the “victim of genericide,” which occurs when the public appropriates a trademark and uses it as a generic name for a type of goods or services regardless of the source. If this happens, as it did for ASPIRIN and THERMOS, the trademark owner can loose its rights in the mark.

Here, the plaintiffs claimed that the public’s use of google as a verb, e.g. “I googled it,” showed that the trademark was generic. The plaintiff’s claimed that a word can only be used in a trademark sense …

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Components of a Trademark Cease and Desist Letter

At its most basic, a trademark cease and desist letter explains the what and why of the wrongful conduct and requests that it stop. Below provides a more detailed explanation of some components that may go into a cease and desist letter, depending on the circumstances.

1.  Who is this?

Simply explain who you are. For example, “I’m the president of Acme, Inc.”

2. Tell them what you want

Provide a brief one or two sentence summary of the issue and what you want. For example, “I am writing regarding Beta Inc.’s use of the word “BOSSES” in connection with the sale of widgets. As this use infringes Acme’s trademark rights, Acme demands that you immediately stop all use of BOSSES in connection with the sale of widgets.”

3. Explain

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Should I use Inc or LLC in my Trademark?

Look at the way well-known brands use their company name as a trademark or services mark. They usually do not include an entity descriptor–e.g. Inc., Corp., Ltd., or LLC–in those brand usages. For example, the company behind the Starbucks brand is “Starbucks Corporation.” However, you rarely see the word “corporation” used in connection with Starbucks when Starbucks is used as a trademark. Instead, “Starbucks Corporation” is mostly used in the fine print when referring to the corporation rather than the brand, such as in their copyright notice.

One reason for that is marketers probably do not want unnecessary legal language cluttering up their beautifully crafted names/brands. Another reason is that trademark law somewhat discourages the inclusion of entity descriptors in trademarks.

The Lanham Act provides for the federal registration of …

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