Posts Tagged ‘Lanham Act’

Examining The Dupont Factors on a Case-by-Case Basis

Sunday, April 5th, 2020

Under §2(d) of the Lanham Act, marks that are confusingly similar may not be registered with the USPTO.  When it comes to determining likelihood of confusion, the examining attorney considers the Dupont Factors. Often, the first two: (1) The similarity or dissimilarity of the marks in their entireties as to appearance, sound, connotation and commercial impression. (2) The relatedness of the goods or services as described in the application and registration(s), hold the most weight. However, there is no precedent that states that the first two are the most important. All of the factors must be considered equally in light of the evidence provided in each case. In the case below, a decision made by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board was vacated and remanded by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, because the Board failed to consider all of the factors for which there was evidence.

In 2017, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed the §2(d) refusal of the mark GUILD MORTAGE COMPANY for “mortgage banking services, namely, origination, acquisition, servicing, securitization and brokerage of mortgage loans.” (MORTGAGE COMPANY was disclaimed) Finding it confusingly similar with the registered mark GUILD INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT for “investment advisory services.” (INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT was disclaimed) In light of this, the Applicant appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC).  In 2019, The CAFC issued a decision that vacated and remanded the TTAB’s decision “for further proceedings consistent the [its] opinion.” The CAFC stated that the Board failed to address the applicant’s arguments and evidence related to the eighth Dupont Factor, which examines the length of time during and conditions under which there has been concurrent use without evidence of actual confusion.

In a 2020 precedential opinion, on remand from the CAFC, the Board issued a final decision in regard to the mark GUILD MORTGAGE COMPANY.  As instructed, the Board reexamined the case giving more consideration to the eighth Dupont Factor. Starting with the first factor, the Board found that the dominant term in both marks was “guild.” Therefore, it ultimately found that the similarities between the marks, in accordance with “guild(‘s)” dictionary definition and overall commercial impression, outweighed the differences in sight and sound. The Board found that the first Dupont Factor weighed in favor of a finding of likelihood of confusion. As to the second factor, which examines the parties’ involved services, submissions of third-party registrations covering both mortgage banking and investment advisory services were enough to convince the Board that the services are related. Moreover, in accordance with the third factor, the Board found that the same consumers who seek mortgage banking services may also seek investment advisory services. Therefore, the channels of trade and classes of consumers are likely to overlap. Moving to the fourth factor, which examines the degree of purchaser care, the Board made its determination in light of Stone Lion Capital, 110 USPQ2d at 1163, which states that the decision must be based on the least sophisticated consumer. Regardless, the Board found that “consumers may exercise a certain degree of care in investing money, if not perhaps in seeking a mortgage loan for which they simply wish to get funded.” In sum, the fourth factor weighed mildly against finding a likely confusion.

Finally, the Board turned to examine the factor for which the case was remanded, the eighth factor. This factor looks at the length of time during and conditions under which there has been concurrent use without evidence of actual confusion. The eighth Dupont Factor requires consideration of the actual market condition, as opposed to the other factors in this case that require analysis based on the application and cited registration and do not consider evidence of how the Applicant and Registrant actually rendered their services in the marketplace. Considering the actual market condition, both services were based in Southern California and operated there for approximately 40 years with no evidence of actual confusion. Not only did both parties conduct businesses in the same state, they ultimately expanded into other states as well. However, there was no evidence to indicate any specific geographical areas of overlap between the consumer markets for the different services. Ultimately, though the parties both conducted business in California, and potentially in some of the same states nationwide, there was not enough evidence to show that “in the actual marketplace, the same consumers have been exposed to both marks for the respective services…” In conclusion, the Board deemed the eighth Dupont Factor neutral and after balancing the other relevant factors, found confusion likely and affirmed the refusal to register under §2(d) of the Lanham Act.

Though the Board ultimately ended up at the same conclusion as it did in 2017, it may have turned out differently if both parties had been heard from. In an ex parte context, there was not an opportunity for the Board to hear from the Registrant in regard to whether or not it was aware of any reported instances of confusion. Since the Board was only able to get “half of the story,” it gave limited probative value to the evidence provided for the eighth factor. This case demonstrates that the weight of each factor varies on a case-by-case basis.

 

The End of the Disparagement Clause

Saturday, February 8th, 2020

Under Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, there are certain types of marks that may never be registered with the USPTO. Last week, one of the posts discussed deceptive marks, under Section 2(a), which is one type of mark that may not be registered. Under 15 U.S.C. §1052(a) other marks that may not be registered include those which consist or are comprised of “immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter; or matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute; or a geographical indication which, when used on or in connection with wines or spirits, identifies a place other than the origin of the goods …”

The Disparagement Clause was brought into question in the case Matal v. Tam, 137 S. Ct. 1744 (2017).  In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Disparagement Clause violates the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech Clause and that it is no longer a valid ground on which to refuse registration or cancel a registration.

In 2015, Simon Tam applied to register his trademark THE SLANTS for the name of his Asian-American band. The registration was denied under §2(a) of the Lanham Act because it was considered disparaging to those of Asian descent. When determining whether or not a mark is potentially disparaging, an examining attorney conducts a two-prong test, (1) The likely meaning of the mark at issue and, “if that meaning is found to refer to identifiable persons, institutions, beliefs or national symbols,” the examining attorney will move to the second part of the test, (2) “Whether that meaning may be disparaging to a substantial composite of the referenced group …” If the examiner finds that a “substantial composite, although not necessarily a majority, of the referenced group would find the proposed mark…to be disparaging in the context of contemporary attitudes,” a prima facie case for disparagement is created. At that point, it is the applicant’s burden to prove that the trademark is not disparaging.

Tam argued that he was using the mark to “reclaim” and “take ownership” of stereotypes about people of Asian ethnicity. Regardless, his mark was denied, and he appealed to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that affirmed the refusal for registration. Ultimately, Tam appealed to the Supreme Court that concluded that the Disparagement Clause was unconstitutional. The majority found that the clause: “engages in viewpoint-based discrimination, regulates the expressive component of trademarks, and consequently cannot be treated as commercial speech and that the clause is subject to and cannot satisfy strict scrutiny.”(Citation omitted) Justice Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, said: “We have said time and again that ‘the public expression of ideas may not be prohibited merely because the ideas are themselves offensive to some of their hearers.’”

In Matal the central issue was how the public would perceive the potentially offensive mark. While Tam’s goal was to “reclaim” the disparaging phrase, the USPTO originally denied the trademark registration because it was worried that instead of helping dissolve the negative connotation of the term “slant,” it would have the opposite effect for those who identified as Asian American. Something of note that this case has brought to light, is the portion of the two-prong disparagement test which says, “…to be disparaging in the context of contemporary attitudes.” In 2017, 71 years after the Disparagement Clause was written, contemporary attitudes may be shifting and by finding the Disparagement provision a violation of the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech Clause, it can potentially help in contributing to a more liberal marketplace of ideas.

One of the most immediate and potent effects of the Supreme Court’s official ban on the Disparagement Clause under §2(a) of the Lanham Act, was in regard to the Washington Redskins football team. The Washington Redskins, founded in 1932, was originally named the Boston Braves until they relocated to Washington, D.C. and took on their current moniker in 1933. Between 1967 and 1990, the USPTO registered six trademarks affiliated with the Washington Redskins, each trademark containing the term REDSKIN. Since 1992, the registrations, the previous team owners and current owner, Dan Snyder, have been in constant legal battle with Native American groups who’ve opposed the name and contended that it is in fact disparaging. In 2015, a federal judge canceled the trademark registrations and revoked their trademark protections. However, in light of the 2017 Matal decision, in 2018,  the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated the decisions that had previously canceled the Washington NFL team’s federal trademark registrations.

In wake of the Matal decision, the portions of the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP) §1203, that specifically apply to the disparagement provision no longer apply. The USPTO Examination Guide 01-17  provides examination guidance after Matal v. Tam for the Disparagement Clause and was issued on June 26, 2017. The guide states: “Applicants that received an advisory refusal under the disparagement provision and were suspended pursuant to Examination Guide 01-16 will be removed from suspension and examined for any other requirements or refusals. If an application was previously abandoned after being refused registration under the disparagement provision, and is beyond the deadline for filing a petition to revive, a new application may be filed.”

After the official barring of the Disparagement Clause, another trademark case, Iancu v. Brunetti, 139 S. Ct. 2294 (2019), was heard before the Supreme Court. The trademark, FUCT,  was previously deemed unregistrable under §2(a) which bars registration of marks that consist of or comprise immoral or scandalous matter.   On June 24, 2019, the Supreme Court held that the Scandalous Clause violates the First Amendment of the Constitution because it “impermissibly restricts free speech.” Much like the Disparagement Clause, the Supreme Court held that the scandalous provision was unconstitutional under the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech Clause because it was facially viewpoint-based. On July 3, 2019, the USPTO issued Examination Guide 2-19 which provides guidance for §2(a)’s Scandalous Marks Provision after Iancu v. Brunetti. The Examination Guide states: “that a mark may consist of or comprise “immoral” or “scandalous” matter is no longer a valid ground on which to refuse registration or cancel a registration.”  As stated by the Harvard Law Review, “If other provisions are invalidated due to their content-based nature, there will be little left for the government to use as a basis for restricting trademarks.” 133 Harv. L. Rev. 292 (2019)

 

Deceptiveness Cases

Saturday, February 8th, 2020

The last post covered deceptive marks, which are marks that are unregistrable under §2(a) of the Lanham Act. The Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure specifies that “Neither a disclaimer of the deceptive matter nor a claim that is has acquired distinctiveness under §2(f) can obviate a refusal under §2(a) on the ground that the mark consists of or comprises deceptive matter.”  A deceptive mark can be a single deceptive term, a deceptive term within a composite mark which also features non-deceptive elements or a term or portion of a term that suggests a deceptive quality, characteristic, function, composition or use. Deceptive marks can also be marks that falsely portray the material content of a product and marks that are geographically misdescriptive.

As discussed in the post on deceptive marks, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit created a three-prong test to determine whether or not a mark may be deceptive and therefore unregistrable under §2(a) of the Act; see In re Budge Mfg. Co., 857 F.2d 773, 775, 8 USPQ2d 1259, 1260 (Fed. Cir. 1988). If a mark meets the first two prongs of the test, it may be considered deceptively misdescriptive under §2(e)(1) of the Lanham Act. If a mark satisfies all three prongs of the test, it may be considered deceptive. If an examining attorney has found a mark to be deceptive, and therefore unregistrable with the USPTO, an applicant may go before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board on appeal. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board will either affirm the refusal for registration or reverse the decision in favor of the applicant. Below are two recent Trademark Trial and Appeal Board decisions affirming refusal for registration under §2(a) of the Lanham Act:

In a 2019 non-precedential opinion, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed the refusal for registration of the deceptive mark NU DOWN, for pillows and bedding “made in whole or substantial part of synthetic down or down alternatives.” For the first element of the three-prong test, the applicant did not argue that the term DOWN was descriptive and had disclaimed it previously. However, the applicant argued that the mark NU DOWN was not misdescriptive because the term NU could imply something aside from natural down. The Board found that the term “down,” in the dictionary presumptively meant natural down, and if not precisely natural down, something comparable. It was found that when used in commerce, relevant purchasers believed the term “down” to mean natural down unless otherwise stated.  Turning its attention to the term NU, the Board held that even if it was understood as the phonetic version of the term “new,” it could simultaneously mean “an updated or modern version” of natural down instead of new and substitute material. The Board found that the applicant’s mark satisfied the first prong of the test and was misdescriptive of the identified goods. “The addition of the word ‘NU’ to the word ‘DOWN’ would not inform purchasers with any clarity that Applicant’s goods are not filled with down.” Regarding the second element of the test, relating to whether or not prospective purchasers are likely to believe that the misdescription actually describes the goods, the applicant admitted that the term “down” is often used in the particular industry in reference to products containing natural down. In satisfying the second prong of the test, the Board concluded that although the applicant’s packaging explained the products were down alternative, there was no guarantee that consumers would read the provided explanation. Furthermore, those purchasing the goods online may not read the fine print labeling required by the federal Textile and Wool Acts. “The mark standing alone must pass muster and this it fails to do.” Finally, the third element of the test, in regard to whether or not the misdescription is likely to affect a significant portion of the relevant consumers’ decision to purchase, the Board found that a significant number of relevant consumers would likely be interested in knowing what material was used in the applicant’s goods for multiple reasons including thinness or bulkiness of the fill, allergy issues, animal cruelty issues and monetary factors. Because of this, the Board concluded that the misdescription in the applicant’s mark would likely affect the purchasing decisions of a significant portion of relevant consumers. In summation, the Board affirmed the Examining Attorney’s refusal of registration for deceptiveness under §2(a) of the Lanham Act.

In a 2018 non-precedential opinion, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed the refusal for registration of the deceptive mark P6 CHROME, for “dietary and nutritional supplements that do not contain chromium.” The Board found the mark to be deceptive because it was a misdescription of the identified goods which could lead consumers to believe that the supplements contained chromium and would, in turn, affect a significant portion of relevant consumers. In an effort to rebut this, the applicant claimed that the term “chrome” simply referred to the color of the packaging. The Board then turned to the three-prong test created by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to determine whether or not a mark is deceptive. To satisfy the first element of the test, the Board must decide whether or not the term misdescribes the character, quality, function, composition or use of goods. In this instance, both the applicant and the Examining Attorney submitted dictionary definitions that established that the term “chrome” meant chromium. It had been previously established that the applicant’s goods did not contain chromium, therefore the term was misdescriptive. The applicant argued that the term “chrome” had more than one meaning, but the Board held that alternative meanings held no merit in the context of the goods for which the mark was used. The record supplied evidence showing that there were already many dietary and nutritional supplements containing chromium sold under marks that used the term “CHROME.” Though the applicant argued that term “chrome” was in regard to the color of the packaging, the Board dismissed it saying that not all potential purchasers would see the packaging, only the mark and would likely perceive the term “CHROME” to be a description of an ingredient in the identified goods. The second prong, which asks if consumers are likely to believe the misdescription, was satisfied since the applicant’s goods did not contain chromium, however, it was previously established that many dietary and nutritional supplements do contain chromium. The Board went on to explain that not only average customers but “sophisticated purchasers” as well would be likely to believe the misdescription. “Sophisticated” customers would likely be familiar with the health benefits of chromium and be aware of other dietary and nutritional supplements that contained chromium and were sold under marks containing the term “CHROME.” The third prong of the test, regarding whether or not the misdescription would affect the purchasing decisions of a significant portion of relevant consumers, was satisfied as well. The Board found that though not all consumers would be aware of the potential health benefits of chromium, consumers who frequently purchased supplements “would find Applicant’s supplements more desirable because of the perceived representation that they contain chromium.” In this manner, all three prongs of the test were satisfied, and the Board affirmed the refusal of registration for deceptiveness under §2(a) of the Lanham Act.

Deceptive marks may not be registered with the USPTO under any circumstance. Unlike marks that have been deemed deceptively misdescriptive under §2(e)(1) of the Lanham Act, marks found to be deceptive under §2(a) cannot be federally registered even with a claim of acquired distinctiveness under §2(f) of the Lanham Act; nor is it enough for the applicant to disclaim the deceptive material.

Deceptive Marks

Friday, January 31st, 2020

An earlier post discussed marks that were found to be deceptively misdescriptive under §2(e)(1) of the Lanham Act. This post will discuss marks that are found to be deceptive under §2(a) of the Act. The Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(a), bars registration of deceptive matter on either the Principal Register or the Supplemental Register. The Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure specifies that, “Neither a disclaimer of the deceptive matter nor a claim that is has acquired distinctiveness under §2(f) can obviate a refusal under §2(a) on the ground that the mark consists of or comprises deceptive matter.”

A deceptive mark can be a single deceptive term, a deceptive term within a composite mark which also features non-deceptive elements or a term or portion of a term that suggests a deceptive quality, characteristic, function, composition or use. Deceptive marks can also be marks that falsely portray the material content of a product and marks that are geographically misdescriptive.

To determine whether or not a mark consists of or comprises deceptive matter, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit created a three-prong test; see In re Budge Mfg. Co., 857 F.2d 773, 775, 8 USPQ2d 1259, 1260 (Fed. Cir. 1988). The test is the same one used to determine whether or not a mark is deceptively misdescriptive. The three parts, as outlined in the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure, are as follows: (1) Is the term misdescriptive of the character, quality, function, composition or use of the goods? (2) If so, are prospective purchasers likely to believe that the misdescription actually describes the goods? (3) If so, is the misdescription likely to affect a significant portion of the relevant consumers’ decision to purchase?

If the first two prongs are satisfied, then a term is deceptively misdescriptive under §2(e)(1) of the Lanham Act. If the first two, and the third prong are met, then the mark is deceptive. A deceptively misdescriptive mark may feature a misdescription that is a relevant factor that may be considered in the purchasing decision. However, if a mark features a misdescription that is a material factor considered in the purchasing decision, it is deceptive under §2(a).  In any case where it is not clear whether or not a misdescription would materially affect a decision to purchase, an examining attorney should refuse federal registration under both §2(a) and §2(e)(1) of the Lanham Act.

In order for an examining attorney to establish a prima facie case of deceptiveness, he/she must supply sufficient evidence to show that the misdescriptive quality or characteristic would be a material factor in the purchasing decision of a “significant portion of the relevant consumers.” To supply such evidence, the examining attorney must produce evidence that the misdescriptive quality or characteristic would make the goods or services “more appealing or desirable to prospective purchasers.”

When determining whether a mark is deceptive or not, there are certain objective criteria that an examining attorney must analyze in deciding if a misdescriptive term is a material factor or not. Often, if there is evidence of “objective inducement to purchase” within or comprising the mark, it supports a notion that a reasonable number of relevant consumers would likely be deceived. Five common objective criteria considered when materiality are, (1) Superior Quality, (2) Enhanced Performance or Function, (3) Difference in Price, (4) Health Benefit and (5) Religious Practice or Social Policy. If an examining attorney can provide evidence showing that the goods or services for which the mark is being used do not contain the above criteria, then the mark will be deemed deceptive.

The same evidence used to show that a term is deceptively misdescriptive can also be used to establish that a mark is deceptive. This includes Internet searches using the objective criteria and applicant’s own advertising materials including specimens, brochures, web pages, press releases or product or service information sheets. An examining attorney must also record any instances in which an applicant attempts to benefit as a result of the potentially deceptive term. Instances wherein advertising materials contain false ascertains pertaining to the deceptive wording must be recorded as well. An applicant’s intent to deceive may also provide strong evidence in determining whether or not a mark is deceptive, though showing intention is not a requirement under §2(a) of the Act.

A mark that is found to be deceptive under §2(a) of the Lanham Act may, under no circumstance, be registered on either the Principal Register or the Supplemental Register. However, if a mark is found to be deceptively misdescriptive, it may be eligible for registration under §2(f) of the Act if it has acquired distinctiveness, or on the Supplemental Register if appropriate.

Most Recent Rulings on Descriptiveness

Friday, January 31st, 2020

As discussed on the post regarding merely descriptive marks, when determining whether a mark is merely descriptive or not, the decision must be made in direct relation to the goods or services with which it is being used. An examining attorney at the USPTO must look at the possible significance that the mark would have to the general consumers of the goods or services in the marketplace. Often, marks are considered merely descriptive under §2(e)(1) of the Lanham Act because they are terms that could be used to describe an entire category of goods or services. If a mark has been deemed merely descriptive and therefore unregistrable with the USPTO, an applicant may go before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board on appeal. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board will either affirm the refusal for registration or reverse the decision in favor of the applicant. Below are some of the most recent 2019 Trademark Trial and Appeal Board decisions affirming refusal for registration under §2(e)(1) of the Lanham Act:

In a 2019 non-precedential opinion, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed the refusal for registration of the merely descriptive mark 19 CRIMES, for video and audio works and production, distribution and rental of recorded entertainment. The Board agreed with the Examining Attorney that the mark conveys an immediate knowledge of a feature of the goods or services, “namely, that the information and entertainment provided relates to the 19 crimes of 18thand 19th Century Britain that led to involuntary colonization in Australia.” The applicant argued that the mark was more suggestive than descriptive because the term 19 CRIMES does not directly provide any information about the goods or services for which it is being used. He explained that though his intended goods and services may revolve around that period of time, the material will be centered on unique stories of a few “incorrigible rogues” and their lives. The Board then stated that the mark could not be looked at in such a specific light, but in the context of the applicant’s goods and services. Continuing, the Board said that mark was broadly worded and encapsulated the 19 crimes wholly. In turn, the applicant argued that the mark was suggestive because his goods and services related to the individuals who were transported to Australia, not the crimes themselves; therefore, the mark does not “immediately or directly describe any feature, characteristic or quality of those goods or services.” The applicant said it would take the consuming public some stretch of the imagination to relate the mark to the goods and services for which it is being used. The Board disagreed but still gave an observation on the mark: “…merely describe[s] the nineteen crimes themselves under the broadly stated subject matter of Applicant’s goods and services.” In this fashion, the Board held the mark to be merely descriptive.

In a 2019 non-precedential opinion, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed the refusal for registration of the merely descriptive mark SKEETER BAND, in connection with “mosquito repellent bracelets.”  In the first step of examination, the Examining Attorney submitted dictionary definitions for each term, “skeeter” and “band.” In doing so, the Examining Attorney found “skeeter” to mean a mosquito and “band” to mean “a flat, narrow band of material that you put around something.” Not only did the Attorney submit dictionary definitions, but multiple third-party registrations where either the word “skeeter” or “band” was disclaimed. The Board concurred that the terms SKEETER and BAND were merely descriptive when used in connection with the product. Furthermore, the Board also found that the two words taken together did not create a new or incongruous meaning, they held their original meaning and merely conveyed knowledge of a quality, feature, function or characteristic of the good. The applicant argued that SKEETER had more than one meaning in the dictionary, but the Board pointed out that the meaning of the term must be determined in direct relation to the goods, not in the abstract. Following, the applicant argued that SKEETER is an informal term meaning “mosquito,” however, the dictionary recognizes SKEETER as a common synonym for mosquito and, “is not so informal or obscure as to defy consumer understanding.” In a final argument, the applicant argued that SKEETER BAND did not instantly translate to “mosquito repellent band,” but the Board dismissed this argument in saying, “it is well settled that consumers have a habit of shortening names.” In light of this, the Board held that the mark was merely descriptive.

In another 2019 non-precedential opinion, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed the refusal for registration of the merely descriptive mark BIKESTYLE, in connection with cycling apparel ranging from gloves to cycling jerseys and rainwear. The Examining Attorney found that the mark’s “wording merely describes a characteristic of applicant’s goods, specifically, a type of fashion made for riding a bicycle.” To support this statement, the Attorney provided dictionary definitions for the terms “cycling,” “bike” and “style.” In response, the applicant said that the mark did not refer directly to “fashion made for riding a bicycle…” rather it referred to the cyclists’ “way of life.” The applicant went on to argue that the mark was suggestive because it did not immediately convey the idea of clothing, and it would take the consuming public a moment to connect the mark with the goods. In consensus with the Examining Attorney, the Board maintained that the terms together, as a composite, were merely descriptive and did not evoke a “new or unique commercial impression.” As a result, the applicant argued that the term “style” had multiple meanings. Again, the Board rejected this argument saying, “That a term may have other meanings in different contexts is not controlling.” Simply, the mark is to be examined in direct relation with the goods or services for which it is used, not in the abstract. In a final argument, the applicant reasoned that no other third-party used the terms “bikestyle,” “bike style” or “bicycle style.” However, the Board reiterated that it is not necessary for the USPTO to show that others have used the mark or term in a similar fashion. The Board stated, “it is well established that even if an applicant is the only user of a merely descriptive term, this does not justify registration of that term.” In sum, the Board concluded that the mark was merely descriptive in accordance with the three reasons above.

When it comes to determining whether or not a mark is merely descriptive, each case is determined based upon its own set of facts. The three cases above were all deemed merely descriptive and therefore the marks were not afforded protection under §2(e)(1) of the Lanham Act. In order for a merely descriptive mark to be afforded protection, it must acquire a secondary meaning. However, even if a mark acquires a secondary meaning, it is not a guarantee that it will be eligible for registration with the USPTO.

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