Archive for May, 2021

Merely Descriptive/ Disclaimer Requirement – DANK TANK

Tuesday, May 11th, 2021

In a 2021 non-precedential decision, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed a disclaimer requirement for the term DANK in the proposed mark DANK TANK for “Ale; Beer.” The Board found the term to be merely descriptive of the applicant’s goods, and therefore without the disclaimer, the proposed mark was unregistrable under §2(e)(1) and §6(a) of the Trademark Act.

Under §2(e)(1), the determination of descriptiveness of an Applicant’s mark, or portion of one, is based on three elements: (1) The relation of the term to the Applicant’s goods or services, (2) The context in which the mark is being used and (3) the possible significance the mark would have to the average purchaser because of the manner of its use or intended use, not in the abstract or on the basis of guesswork. See In re Chamber of Commerce of the U.S., 675 F.3d 1297, 102 USPQ2d 1217, 1219 (Fed. Cir. 2012). If the term is found to be merely descriptive of an Applicant’s goods or services, it is considered to be an unregistrable component of the mark and must be disclaimed.

The Applicant attempted three arguments: First, the Applicant argued that neither the term DANK nor the unitary mark DANK TANK conveyed an immediate idea of the characteristics of the goods, but rather was suggestive of “a beer or ale product that does not include cannabis.” The Applicant reasoned that “customers must apply multiple mental steps, first associating the term ‘tank’ with a beverage and then associating the unitary mark ‘DANK TANK’ with a particular beverage (beer, ale) that does not include cannabis, demonstrates the suggestiveness of the mark.” Second, the Applicant argued that DANK TANK was a unitary mark for the goods at issue and therefore, it should not be dissected in order to require a disclaimer for the term DANK. In its third and final argument, the Applicant maintained that the proposed mark DANK TANK was a double entendre, because “the term ‘dank’ is used by some to refer to cannabis.”

Starting with the Applicant’s first argument, the Board turned to the definition of the term “dank” submitted by the Examining Attorney, and a third-party usage of the term, which was in line with the submitted definition. As defined on, the term “dank” “means or refers to ‘…sticky, juicy, very pungent and of a high level’ and ‘[v]ery hoppy, cloudy IPAs with high alcohol content and flavors with a very funky taste.’” Further, the Examining Attorney submitted an article from the Washington Post website that said, “…you see, cannabis and hops are relatives, and both get their flavors and aromas from compounds called terpenes. That’s why brewers like to describe super-hoppy IPAs the way that they might talk about marijuana: ‘dank,’ ‘resinous,’ ‘sticky.’” Regarding the submitted definition, the Board stated that simply because no traditional dictionary contained a definition for the term “dank,” it did not mean that the term was not merely descriptive. See In re Thomas Collators, Inc., 158 USPQ 297, 298 (TTAB 1968). Ultimately, in terms of the Applicant’s first argument, the Board concluded that the term was indeed merely descriptive of the listed goods.

Turning the Applicant’s second argument, which held that DANK TANK was a unitary mark, the Board maintained that “A mark is considered unitary when it creates a single and distinct commercial impression separate and apart from the meaning of its constituent elements.” See Dena v. Belvedere, 21 USPQ2d at 1052. Further, “If the matter that comprises the mark or relevant portion of the mark is unitary, no disclaimer of an element, whether descriptive, generic, or otherwise, is required.” See In re EBS Data Processing, 212 USPQ 964, 966 (TTAB 1981). When looking at the Applicant’s proposed mark DANK TANK, the Board found that prospective purchasers who viewed the proposed mark would know that DANK was descriptive of the listed goods, and TANK was defined as “a usually large receptacle for holding, transporting, or storing liquids (such as water or fuel).” So, they would easily find that the proposed mark was comprised of two separate terms. Therefore, the Board concluded that the proposed mark DANK TANK was not a unitary mark and could indeed be dissected for the purpose of a required disclaimer.

Finally, the Board briefly looked at the Applicant’s last argument that the proposed mark was a double entendre. As stated in the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP), “For trademark purposes, a ‘double entendre’ is an expression that has a double connotation or significance as applied to the goods or services. … The multiple interpretations that make an expression a ‘double entendre’ must be associations that the public would make fairly readily.” The Applicant’s argument that the term “dank” was occasionally used to refer to cannabis was not strong enough for the Board to find a double entendre. It found that when the term “dank” was combined with “tank,” it maintained its descriptive significance in relation to the Applicant’s listed goods. So, the Board stated, “Therefore, “DANK” would be perceived by purchasers of Applicant’s ale and beer as signifying a quality, feature or characteristic of those goods resulting in no unitary meaning or double entendre imparted by DANK TANK.”

In conclusion, the Board found that the proposed mark DANK TANK was merely descriptive of the Applicant’s listed goods, it did not create a unitary mark and it did not form a double entendre, therefore, the Board affirmed the disclaimer requirement of the term “dank” under §2(e)(1) and §6(a) of the Trademark Act.

Deceptively Misdescriptive Case – CLEAR

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

In a 2021 precedential case, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed two §2(e)(1) registration refusals for the mark CLEAR finding it deceptively misdescriptive for footwear, lingerie, and other clothing items, and for handbags, purses, wallets and related items, all “excluding transparent goods.”

Under §2(e)(1) a mark is considered deceptively misdescriptive if: (1) The mark misdescribes a quality, feature, function or characteristic of the goods or services with which it is used, and (2) consumers would be likely to believe the misrepresentation. “[T]he reasonably prudent consumer test is applied in assessing whether consumers are likely to believe the misrepresentation.” See In re Hinton, 116 USPQ2d at 1052 (citing R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 226 USPQ 169, 179 (TTAB 1985)).

The Board began its analysis of the proposed mark by determining whether or not the mark was misdescriptive of the goods with which it was used. After reviewing the evidence submitted by the Examining Attorney, which included the dictionary definition of the term “clear” and third-party website submissions, it considered Applicant’s argument that “it is only seeking to register it for non-transparent footwear.” (Emphasis added.) Further, the Applicant argued that its proposed mark did not describe a plausible feature of its goods because the goods recited in the application did not include transparent clothing, footwear or accessories. However, the Board found that argument ineffective and stated, “We cannot assume that consumers of Applicant’s goods will be aware that its identification is so restricted, and the restriction is not controlling of public perception.” See In re Aquitaine Wine USA, LLC, 126 USPQ2d 1181, 1187-88 (TTAB 2018).  The Board was similarly unpersuaded by Applicant’s argument that the term “clear” had other meanings when used in connection with its goods.  Accordingly, the Board found the first prong of the test was satisfied and concluded that the Applicant “cannot avoid a finding of deceptive misdescriptiveness by excluding from its identification the very characteristic that its mark is misdescribing.” Cf. In re ALP of South Beach, Inc., 79 USPQ2d 1009, 1010 (TTAB 2006).

The Board then considered the second prong of the test: whether or not consumers were likely to believe the misrepresentation. The evidence submitted by the Examining Attorney showed that Applicant’s goods could indeed be transparent, “clear” or include “clear” elements. Moreover, the record indicated that “clear shoes were one of the big breakout trends on the spring/summer runways.” The Board found that as a result of the evidence submitted, consumers would likely believe that the items under the proposed mark CLEAR were clear or transparent even when they were not. The Applicant contended that consumers were unlikely to believe the misrepresentation because they would be “visually inspecting” the items prior to the purchase. This argument did not sway the Board and it found that just because consumers would understand that the goods were not made of, and/or did not contain, clear or transparent elements it did not negate their understanding of the misdescription prior to visual inspection. The Board stated, “If Applicant’s goods were to be promoted by word-of-mouth or on social media or in print (e.g., in fashion blogs, magazine articles, or even Applicant’s future advertising) without an image of the goods, a reasonable consumer seeking what the record shows to be a fashion trend would believe that Applicant’s goods, promoted under the proposed CLEAR mark, would feature transparent or clear attributes.” See, e.g., In re Woodward & Lothrop Inc., 4 USPQ2d 1412, 1414 (TTAB 1987). So, the Board found that the second prong of the test was satisfied.

In conclusion, the Board found that both prongs of the deceptively misdescriptive test were satisfied, and therefore affirmed both of the §2(e)(1) refusals of registration for the Applicant’s proposed mark CLEAR.

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