Posts Tagged ‘suggestive’

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In a 2021 non-precedential decision, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed a disclaimer requirement for the term DANK in the proposed mark DANK TANK for “Ale; Beer.”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.

Merely Descriptive Marks

Monday, January 20th, 2020

Under the Trademark law, merely descriptive marks are not entitled to registration on the Principal Register. Merely descriptive marks are marks that describe an ingredient, quality, characteristic, function, feature, purpose or use of the specified goods or services. Unlike suggestive marks that take a certain amount of thought to associate the mark with a good or service, merely descriptive marks convey an immediate idea of an ingredient, quality, characteristic, feature, function, purpose or use of the goods or services in question. Both types of marks (Descriptive and Suggestive) are discussed at length in the post on the Spectrum of Distinctiveness.

As discussed in the post on Secondary Meaning, a merely descriptive mark may not be afforded the protections afforded under the Lanham Act without having acquired distinctiveness. Simply because an owner may be the first and only user of a mark that may be descriptive does not mean the mark is entitled to registration by the U.S. Trademark Office or even protection by the courts.

When determining whether a mark is merely descriptive or not, the decision must be made in direct relation to the goods and services with which the mark is used. An Examining Attorney at the Trademark Office must look at the possible significance that the mark would have to the general consumers of the goods or services in the marketplace. When searching for the context in which a mark may be used, sources include websites, publications, labels, packages, advertising material, explanatory text on specimens for the goods or services and consumer surveys.  Marks that are merely descriptive, are often terms that could be used to describe an entire category of goods or services; therefore, they are not inherently associated with one specific brand of goods or services. For example:

In 2016, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed an examining attorney’s decision in finding the mark “BEST PROTEIN,” merely descriptive of the owner’s dietary and nutritional supplements. In addition to other elements, the examining attorney pointed out that protein is a common and heavily promoted element in dietary and nutritional supplements, he furthered his argument documenting several products that included the term protein not only in the marks themselves but listed on the ingredients label as well.

Furthermore, a term does not have to describe all of the purposes, functions, characteristics or features of a good or service to be considered merely descriptive. It can be classified as such if the term describes one important function, attribute or property. In a similar fashion, the term does not need to describe all of the goods or services identified on the application, so long as it describes one of them. An example of this can be seen in this decision:

In 2018, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed a trademark examining attorney’s decision that the mark “BUYER ENGINE” was merely descriptive in reference to the owner’s real estate marketing services. Along with numerous other reasons, the Board stated that the mark refers “to a significant feature of the services themselves…”

A mark may also be considered merely descriptive if the listed goods or services fall within a subset of the of their respective class identified by the term.

Assessing whether a mark is merely descriptive depends upon the facts in each case.


Our Office can help you determine whether your mark is merely descriptive or suggestive for the goods and services with which it is connected.


What is Secondary Meaning/Acquired Distinctiveness?

Monday, January 20th, 2020

When it comes to choosing a trademark, it is important to understand that trademarks are categorized on the Spectrum of Distinctiveness. There are five categories of marks from weakest to strongest: generic, descriptive, suggestive, arbitrary and fanciful. Generic terms may not be trademarked.

Descriptive marks, which are the second weakest, may become eligible for trademark protection under the Lanham Act if they acquire a secondary meaning (i.e. acquires distinctiveness). A secondary meaning is when a descriptive term having a common meaning, takes on a different meaning so that, over time, in the minds of the public, the term becomes synonymous with an owner’s specific goods or services. An owner is required to prove that the term’s secondary meaning is associated with the owner and not the goods or services in general. An example of a descriptive mark that has acquired a secondary meaning is SHARP for the brand of televisions. While the general public knows the meaning of the term “sharp” as a general descriptor, that is descriptive of the picture on the television, it has acquired a secondary meaning, and is now associated with the specific brand of televisions, not just televisions in general.

When determining whether or not a mark has acquired distinctiveness the courts consider four factors: (1) the length and nature of a mark’s use, (2) the nature and extent of advertising and promotion of the name, (3) the efforts of the owner to promote a conscious connection between the name and the business and (4) the degree of actual recognition by the public that the name designates the owner’s product or service.

Regarding the length and nature of a mark’s use, the mark must be used for a minimum period of five years exclusively and continuously in order to be considered eligible for protection. However, even if the owner has met the five-year minimum period of exclusive and continuous use, it is not a guarantee that the Trademark Office and courts will accept that the mark has acquired distinctiveness.

In terms of the second factor, the Trademark Office and courts consider the extent to which the owner advertised and promoted the name in connection with his/her goods or services. Examples of what courts consider when assessing this factor include the geographical extent of the advertisements and promotional efforts, advertising expenditure reports and the number of sales or consumers in correlation with the advertisements and promotions.

The third factor, the owner’s efforts to promote a conscious connection between the name and the business, relates to what steps the owner has taken to make his/her mark synonymous with his/her goods or services. Promotional films highlighting the product or service’s unique strengths and qualities in connection to the mark are an example of this.

Finally, the fourth and often most telling factor is the degree of actual recognition by the public that the name designates the owner’s product or service. Actual recognition can be proven through direct evidence such as consumer testimonies and market surveys. Testimonies or signed statements by other providers in the industry are powerful indicators of actual recognition as well.

Though these are the four criteria that the Trademark Office and courts assess when considering if a mark has acquired secondary meaning, there are no absolutes. Meaning, an owner who can provide minimal evidence to support each of the four components may be denied protection, while an owner who can provide strong evidence for three of the four components may be deemed eligible for protection. If the Trademark Office or a court fails to find secondary meaning strong enough for federal protection, an owner can continue to use his/her mark under common law use.


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