TMEPIndex
Operator
TMEP
 
Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure
October 2013
  • TMEP contents
  • Search Results
  • Saved Searches
  • Close Sidebar
 
Search Results
Highlights
Search Hits
  
 

1200>  1207  

1207    Refusal on Basis of Likelihood of Confusion, Mistake, or Deception

15 U.S.C. §1052  Extract

No trademark by which the goods of the applicant may be distinguished from the goods of others shall be refused registration on the principal register on account of its nature unless it . . . (d) Consists of or comprises a mark which so resembles a mark registered in the Patent and Trademark Office, or a mark or trade name previously used in the United States by another and not abandoned, as to be likely, when used on or in connection with the goods of the applicant, to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive. . . .

Section 2(d) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(d), is the statutory basis for a refusal to register due to likelihood of confusion with another mark. Section 2(d) applies regardless of whether registration of the mark is sought on the Principal Register or the Supplemental Register.

1207.01   Likelihood of Confusion

In the ex parte examination of a trademark application, a refusal under §2(d) is normally based on the examining attorney’s conclusion that the applicant’s mark, as used on or in connection with the specified goods or services, so resembles a registered mark as to be likely to cause confusion. See TMEP §1207.02 concerning application of the §2(d) provision relating to marks that so resemble another mark as to be likely to deceive, and TMEP §1207.03 concerning §2(d) refusals based on unregistered marks (which generally are not issued in ex parte examination).

The issue is not whether the respective marks themselves, or the goods or services offered under the marks, are likely to be confused but, rather, whether there is a likelihood of confusion as to the source or sponsorship of the goods or services because of the marks used thereon. See, e.g., Paula Payne Prods. Co. v. Johnson’s Pub’g Co., 473 F.2d 901, 902, 177 USPQ 76, 77 (C.C.P.A. 1973) (“[T]he question is not whether people will confuse the marks, but rather whether the marks will confuse people into believing that the goods they identify emanate from the same source.”); In re Majestic Distilling Co., 315 F.3d 1311, 1316, 65 USPQ2d 1201, 1205 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (“[T]he...mistaken belief that [a good] is manufactured or sponsored by the same entity [as another good] ... is precisely the mistake that §2(d) of the Lanham Act seeks to prevent.”); In re Shell Oil Co., 992 F.2d 1204, 1207, 26 USPQ2d 1687, 1689 (Fed. Cir. 1993) (“The degree of ‘relatedness’ must be viewed in the context of all the factors, in determining whether the services are sufficiently related that a reasonable consumer would be confused as to source or sponsorship.”); In re Binion, 93 USPQ2d 1531, 1534, 1535 (TTAB 2009); In re Ass’n of the U.S. Army, 85 USPQ2d 1264, 1267-68, 1270 (TTAB 2007); Hilson Research Inc. v. Soc’y for Human Res. Mgmt., 27 USPQ2d 1423, 1429 (TTAB 1993) (“Although confusion, mistake or deception about source or origin is the usual issue posed under Section 2(d), any confusion made likely by a junior user’s mark is cause for refusal; likelihood of confusion encompasses confusion of sponsorship, affiliation or connection.”).

The examining attorney must conduct a search of USPTO records to determine whether the applicant’s mark so resembles any registered mark(s) as to be likely to cause confusion or mistake, when used on or in connection with the goods or services identified in the application. The examining attorney also searches pending applications for conflicting marks with earlier effective filing dates. See TMEP §§1208-1208.03(c) regarding conflicting marks. The examining attorney must place a copy of the search strategy in the record.

If the examining attorney determines that there is a likelihood of confusion between applicant’s mark and a previously registered mark or marks, the examining attorney refuses registration of the applicant’s mark under §2(d). Before citing a registration, the examining attorney must check the automated records of the USPTO to confirm that any registration that is the basis for a §2(d) refusal is an active registration. See TMEP §716.02(e) regarding suspension pending cancellation of a cited registration under §8 of the Act or expiration of a cited registration for failure to renew under §9 of the Act.

Also, if USPTO records indicate that an assignment of the conflicting registration has been recorded, the examining attorney must check the automated records of the Assignment Recordation Branch of the USPTO to determine whether the conflicting mark has been assigned to applicant.

In the seminal case involving §2(d),In re E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals discussed the factors relevant to a determination of likelihood of confusion. 476 F.2d 1357, 177 USPQ 563 (C.C.P.A. 1973). In setting forth the factors, the court cautioned that, with respect to determining likelihood of confusion, “[t]here is no litmus rule which can provide a ready guide to all cases.” Id. at 1361, 177 USPQ at 567. Not all of the factors are relevant and only those relevant factors for which there is evidence in the record must be considered. Id. at 1361-62, 177 USPQ at 567-68; see also In re Mighty Leaf Tea, 601 F.3d 1342, 1346, 94 USPQ2d 1257, 1259 (Fed. Cir. 2010) (“Not all of the DuPont factors are relevant to every case, and only factors of significance to the particular mark need be considered.”); In re Majestic Distilling Co., 315 F.3d 1311, 1315, 65 USPQ2d 1201, 1204 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (citing In re Dixie Rests., Inc., 105 F.3d 1405, 1406-07, 41 USPQ2d 1531, 1533 (Fed. Cir. 1997)); Cunningham v. Laser Golf Corp., 222 F.3d 943, 946, 55 USPQ2d 1842, 1845 (Fed. Cir. 2000). Furthermore, the significance of a particular factor may differ from case to case. See du Pont, 476 F.2d at 1361-62, 177 USPQ at 567-68; Dixie Rests., 105 F.3d at 1406-07, 41 USPQ2d at 1533 (noting that “any one of the factors may control a particular case”).

Although the weight given to the relevant du Pont factors may vary, the following two factors are key considerations in any likelihood of confusion determination:

  • The similarity or dissimilarity of the marks in their entireties as to appearance, sound, connotation and commercial impression.
  • The relatedness of the goods or services as described in the application and registration(s).

    See, e.g., Federated Foods, Inc. v. Fort Howard Paper Co., 544 F.2d 1098, 1103, 192 USPQ 24, 29 (C.C.P.A. 1976); In re Iolo Techs., LLC, 95 USPQ2d 1498, 1499 (TTAB 2010); In re Max Capital Grp. Ltd., 93 USPQ2d 1243, 1244 (TTAB 2010); In re Thor Tech, Inc., 90 USPQ2d 1634, 1635 (TTAB 2009).

The following factors may also be relevant in an ex parte likelihood-of-confusion determination and must be considered if there is pertinent evidence in the record:

  • The similarity or dissimilarity of established, likely-to-continue trade channels.
  • The conditions under which and buyers to whom sales are made, i.e., “impulse” vs. careful, sophisticated purchasing (see TMEP §1207.01(d)(vii)).
  • The number and nature of similar marks in use on similar goods (see TMEP §1207.01(d)(iii)).
  • The existence of a valid consent agreement between the applicant and the owner of the previously registered mark (see TMEP §1207.01(d)(viii)).

See, e.g., du Pont, 476 F.2d at 1362-63, 177 USPQ at 568-69; In re Davey Prods. Pty Ltd., 92 USPQ2d 1198, 1203-04 (TTAB 2009); In re Toshiba Med. Sys. Corp., 91 USPQ2d 1266, 1272-74 (TTAB 2009); Ass’n of the U.S. Army, 85 USPQ2d at 1271-73.

See TMEP §1207.01(d)(ii) regarding the “actual confusion” factor and TMEP §1207.01(d)(ix) regarding the “fame of the prior mark” factor.

As should be clear from the foregoing, there is no mechanical test for determining likelihood of confusion and “each case must be decided on its own facts.” Du Pont, 476 F.2d at 1361, 177 USPQ at 567. In some cases, a determination that there is no likelihood of confusion may be appropriate, even where the marks are similar and the goods/services are related, because these factors are outweighed by other factors, such as differences in the relevant trade channels of the goods/services, the presence in the marketplace of a significant number of similar marks in use on similar goods/services, the existence of a valid consent agreement between the parties, or another established fact probative of the effect of use. For example, in In re Strategic Partners, Inc., 102 USPQ2d 1397 (TTAB 2012), the Board reversed a refusal to register the mark ANYWEAR (in stylized text), for “footwear,” finding no likelihood of confusion with the registered mark ANYWEAR BY JOSIE NATORI (and design), for “jackets, shirts, pants, stretch T-tops and stoles.” Given the similarity in the marks and the relatedness of the goods, the Board stated that “under usual circumstances” it would conclude that confusion is likely to occur; however, an “unusual situation” compelled the Board “to balance the similarities between the marks and goods against the facts that applicant already owns a registration for a substantially similar mark for the identical goods, and that applicant’s registration and the cited registration have coexisted for over five years.” Id. at 1399. Applicant’s prior registration of ANYWEARS for goods including footwear was substantially similar to the applied-for mark ANYWEAR for the same goods, and the registration had achieved incontestable status. Id. Basing its decision on the thirteenth du Pont factor, which “relates to ‘any other established fact probative of the effect of use,’” the Board determined that this factor outweighed the others and confusion was unlikely. Id. at 1399-1400 (quoting du Pont, 476 F.2d at 1361, 177 USPQ at 567).

The decision in Strategic Partners may be applied and weighed against a §2(d) refusal in the limited situation where: (1) an applicant owns a prior registration for the same mark or a mark with no meaningful difference from the applied-for-mark; (2) the identifications of goods/services in the application and applicant’s prior registration are identical or identical in relevant part; and (3) the applicant’s prior registration has co-existed for at least five years with the registration being considered as the basis for the Section 2(d) refusal. See Id. at 1400.

The determination of likelihood of confusion under §2(d) in an intent-to-use application under §1(b) of the Trademark Act does not differ from the determination in any other type of application.

1207.01(a)   Relatedness of the Goods or Services

In assessing the relatedness of the goods and/or services, the more similar the marks at issue, the less similar the goods or services need to be to support a finding of likelihood of confusion. In re Shell Oil Co., 992 F.2d 1204, 1207, 26 USPQ2d 1687, 1689 (Fed. Cir. 1993); Gen. Mills, Inc. v. Fage Dairy Processing Indus. S.A., 100 USPQ2d 1584, 1597 (TTAB 2011); In re Iolo Techs., LLC, 95 USPQ2d 1498, 1499 (TTAB 2010); In re Opus One Inc., 60 USPQ2d 1812, 1815 (TTAB 2001). If the marks of the respective parties are identical or virtually identical, the relationship between the goods and/or services need not be as close to support a finding of likelihood of confusion as would be required if there were differences between the marks. Shell Oil, 992 F.2d at 1207, 26 USPQ2d at 1689; In re Davey Prods. Pty Ltd., 92 USPQ2d 1198, 1202 (TTAB 2009); In re Thor Tech, Inc., 90 USPQ2d 1634, 1636 (TTAB 2009).

In some instances, because of established marketing practices, the use of identical marks on seemingly unrelated goods and services could result in a likelihood of confusion. See In re Sloppy Joe’s Int’l, Inc., 43 USPQ2d 1350, 1356 (TTAB 1997) (“[T]he licensing of the names and/or likenesses of well known persons for use on various goods and services is a common practice.”); In re Phillips-Van Heusen Corp., 228 USPQ 949, 951 (TTAB 1986) (“The licensing of commercial trademarks for use on ‘collateral’ products (such as clothing, glassware, linens, etc.), that are unrelated in nature to those goods or services on which the marks are normally used, has become a common practice in recent years.”).

1207.01(a)(i)   Goods or Services Need Not Be Identical

In a §2(d) determination, the goods and/or services do not have to be identical or even competitive in order to find that there is a likelihood of confusion. In re Iolo Techs., LLC, 95 USPQ2d 1498, 1499 (TTAB 2010); In re G.B.I. Tile & Stone, Inc., 92 USPQ2d 1366, 1368 (TTAB 2009). The issue is not whether the goods and/or services will be confused with each other, but rather whether the public will be confused as to their source. See Recot Inc. v. M.C. Becton, 214 F.3d 1322, 1329, 54 USPQ2d 1894, 1898 (Fed. Cir. 2000) “[E]ven if the goods in question are different from, and thus not related to, one another in kind, the same goods can be related in the mind of the consuming public as to the origin of the goods. It is this sense of relatedness that matters in the likelihood of confusion analysis.”); In re Shell Oil Co., 992 F.2d 1204, 1207, 26 USPQ2d 1687, 1689 (Fed. Cir. 1993);Safety-Kleen Corp. v. Dresser Indus., Inc., 518 F.2d 1399, 1403–04, 186 USPQ 476, 480 (C.C.P.A. 1975); In re Ass’n of the U.S. Army, 85 USPQ2d 1264, 1270 (TTAB 2007). It is sufficient that the goods and/or services of the applicant and the registrant are related in some manner or that the conditions surrounding their marketing are such that they are likely to be encountered by the same persons under circumstances that, because of the marks used in connection therewith, would lead to the mistaken belief that they originate from the same source. See, e.g., On-line Careline Inc. v. America Online Inc., 229 F.3d 1080, 56 USPQ2d 1471 (Fed. Cir. 2000) (holding ON-LINE TODAY for Internet connection services and ONLINE TODAY for an electronic publication likely to cause confusion); In re Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe, Inc., 748 F.2d 1565, 223 USPQ 1289 (Fed. Cir. 1984) (holding MARTIN’S for wheat bran and honey bread, and MARTIN’S for cheese, likely to cause confusion); Gen. Mills, Inc. v. Fage Dairy Processing Indus. S.A., 100 USPQ2d 1584, 1597 (TTAB 2011) (holding composite marks containing the word TOTAL for yogurt and other products likely to cause confusion with the mark TOTAL for ready-to-eat breakfast cereal); In re Toshiba Med. Sys. Corp., 91 USPQ2d 1266 (TTAB 2009) (holding VANTAGE TITAN for MRI diagnostic apparatus, and TITAN for medical ultrasound device, likely to cause confusion); L.C. Licensing, Inc. v. Berman, 86 USPQ2d 1883 (TTAB 2008) (holding ENYCE for custom automotive accessories, and ENYCE for various urban lifestyle clothing items and accessories, likely to cause confusion); In re Corning Glass Works, 229 USPQ 65 (TTAB 1985) (holding CONFIRM for a buffered solution equilibrated to yield predetermined dissolved gas values in a blood gas analyzer, and CONFIRMCELLS for diagnostic blood reagents for laboratory use, likely to cause confusion).

Conversely, if the goods or services in question are not related or marketed in such a way that they would be encountered by the same persons in situations that would create the incorrect assumption that they originate from the same source, then, even if the marks are identical, confusion is not likely. See, e.g., Coach Servs., Inc. v. Triumph Learning LLC, 668 F.3d 1356, 1371, 101 USPQ2d 1713, 1723 (Fed. Cir. 2012) (affirming the Board’s dismissal of opposer’s likelihood-of-confusion claim, noting “there is nothing in the record to suggest that a purchaser of test preparation materials who also purchases a luxury handbag would consider the goods to emanate from the same source” though both were offered under the COACH mark); Shen Mfg. Co. v. Ritz Hotel Ltd., 393 F.3d 1238, 1244-45, 73 USPQ2d 1350, 1356 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (reversing TTAB’s holding that contemporaneous use of RITZ for cooking and wine selection classes and RITZ for kitchen textiles is likely to cause confusion, because the relatedness of the respective goods and services was not supported by substantial evidence); Local Trademarks, Inc. v. Handy Boys Inc., 16 USPQ2d 1156, 1158 (TTAB 1990) (finding liquid drain opener and advertising services in the plumbing field to be such different goods and services that confusion as to their source is unlikely even if they are offered under the same marks); Quartz Radiation Corp. v. Comm/Scope Co., 1 USPQ2d 1668, 1669 (TTAB 1986) (holding QR for coaxial cable and QR for various apparatus used in connection with photocopying, drafting, and blueprint machines not likely to cause confusion because of the differences between the parties’ respective goods in terms of their nature and purpose, how they are promoted, and who they are purchased by).

1207.01(a)(ii)   Goods May Be Related to Services

It is well recognized that confusion may be likely to occur from the use of the same or similar marks for goods, on the one hand, and for services involving those goods, on the other. See, e.g., In re Hyper Shoppes (Ohio), Inc., 837 F.2d 463, 6 USPQ2d 1025 (Fed. Cir. 1988) (holding BIGG’S (stylized) for retail grocery and general merchandise store services and BIGGS and design for furniture likely to cause confusion); In re H.J. Seiler Co., 289 F.2d 674, 129 USPQ 347 (C.C.P.A. 1961) (holding SEILER’s for catering services and SEILER’S for smoked and cured meats likely to cause confusion); In re United Serv. Distribs., Inc., 229 USPQ 237 (TTAB 1986) (holding mark consisting of a design featuring silhouettes of a man and woman used in connection with distributorship services in the field of health and beauty aids and mark consisting of a design featuring silhouettes of a man and woman used in connection with skin cream likely to cause confusion); In re Phillips-Van Heusen Corp., 228 USPQ 949 (TTAB 1986) (holding 21 CLUB for various items of clothing and THE “21” CLUB (stylized) for restaurant services likely to cause confusion); In re U.S. Shoe Corp., 229 USPQ 707 (TTAB 1985) (holding CAREER IMAGE (stylized) for retail women’s clothing store services and CREST CAREER IMAGES (stylized) for uniforms likely to cause confusion); Steelcase Inc. v. Steelcare Inc., 219 USPQ 433 (TTAB 1983) (holding STEELCARE INC. and design for refinishing of furniture, office furniture, and machinery and STEELCASE for office furniture and accessories, likely to cause confusion); Corinthian Broad. Corp. v. Nippon Elec. Co., Ltd., 219 USPQ 733 (TTAB 1983) (holding TVS for transmitters and receivers of still television pictures and TVS for television broadcasting services likely to cause confusion).

1207.01(a)(ii)(A)   Food and Beverage Products Versus Restaurant Services

While likelihood of confusion has often been found where similar marks are used in connection with both food or beverage products and restaurant services, there is no per se rule to this effect. See Lloyd’s Food Prods., Inc. v. Eli’s, Inc., 987 F.2d 766, 768, 25 USPQ2d 2027, 2030 (Fed. Cir. 1993); In re Opus One Inc., 60 USPQ2d 1812, 1813 (TTAB 2001). Thus, the relatedness of such goods and services may not be assumed and the evidence of record must show "something more" than that similar or even identical marks are used for food products and for restaurant services. In re Coors Brewing Co., 343 F.3d 1340, 1345, 68 USPQ2d 1059, 1063 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (quoting Jacobs v. Int'l Multifoods Corp., 668 F.2d 1234, 1236, 212 USPQ 641, 642 (C.C.P.A. 1982)); see also In re Giovanni Food Co., 97 USPQ2d 1990, 1991 (TTAB 2011).

In Coors, the examining attorney introduced evidence from several sources discussing the practice of some restaurants to offer private label or house brands of beer; evidence that brewpubs who brew their own beer often feature restaurant services; and copies of several third-party registrations showing that a single mark had been registered for both beer and restaurants services. 343 F.3d at 1345, 68 USPQ2d at 1063. However, applicant countered with evidence that while there are about 1,450 brewpubs and microbreweries in the United States, there are over 800,000 restaurants, which means that brewpubs and microbreweries account for only about 18 one-hundredths of one percent of all restaurants. Id. at 1346, 68 USPQ2d at 1063. Noting that “[t]here was no contrary evidence introduced on those points,” the court found that:

While there was evidence that some restaurants sell private label beer, that evidence did not suggest that such restaurants are numerous. And although the Board had before it a few registrations for both restaurant services and beer, the very small number of such dual use registrations does nothing to counter Coors’ showing that only a very small percentage of restaurants actually brew their own beer or sell house brands of beer; instead, the small number of such registrations suggests that it is quite uncommon for restaurants and beer to share the same trademark. Thus, the evidence before the Board indicates not that there is a substantial overlap between restaurant services and beer with respect to source, but rather that the degree of overlap between the sources of restaurant services and the sources of beer is de minimis. We therefore disagree with the Board’s legal conclusion that Coors’ beer and the registrant’s restaurant services are sufficiently related to support a finding of a likelihood of confusion.

Id. at 1346, 68 USPQ2d at 1063–64.

In the following cases, the Board found the “something more” requirement to be satisfied: In re Accelerate s.a.l., 101 USPQ2d 2047, 2050-51 (TTAB 2012) (holding COLOMBIANO COFFEE HOUSE, for providing food and drink, likely to cause confusion with the registered certification mark COLOMBIAN, for coffee, given the inclusion of COFFEE HOUSE in applicant’s mark, third-party registrations covering both restaurant or café services and coffee beverages, and because coffee houses specialize in coffee beverages); In re Opus One Inc., 60 USPQ2d at 1814-16 (holding use of OPUS ONE for both wine and restaurant services likely to cause confusion, where the evidence of record indicated that OPUS ONE is a strong and arbitrary mark, that it is common in the industry for restaurants to offer and sell private label wines named after the restaurant, and that registrant’s wines were served at applicant’s restaurant); In re Comexa Ltda., 60 USPQ2d 1118, 1123 (TTAB 2001) (holding AMAZON and parrot design for chili sauce and pepper sauce and AMAZON for restaurant services likely to cause confusion, based on, inter alia, 48 use-based third-party registrations showing registration of the same mark for both sauces and restaurant services, and the determination that “of all food products[,] sauces . . . are perhaps the ones most likely to be marketed by the restaurants in which those items are served”); In re Azteca Rest. Enters., 50 USPQ2d 1209, 1211 (TTAB 1999) (holding AZTECA MEXICAN RESTAURANT for restaurant services and AZTECA (with and without design) for Mexican food items likely to cause confusion, where the AZTECA MEXICAN RESTAURANT mark itself indicated that the relevant restaurant services featured Mexican food and the evidence showed that the goods at issue “are often principal items of entrees served by . . . Mexican restaurants”); In re Golden Griddle Pancake House Ltd., 17 USPQ2d 1074 (TTAB 1990) (holding GOLDEN GRIDDLE for table syrup and GOLDEN GRIDDLE PANCAKE HOUSE for restaurant services likely to cause confusion, based on third-party registration evidence showing that entities offering restaurant services may also offer a variety of goods under the same mark, as well as findings that “restaurants frequently package certain of their products for retail sale” and that the GOLDEN GRIDDLE PANCAKE HOUSE mark itself suggests that the relevant restaurant services feature pancakes and pancake syrup); In re Mucky Duck Mustard Co., 6 USPQ2d 1467, 1469 (TTAB) (holding use of applied-for mark, MUCKY DUCK and duck design, for mustard, and registered mark, THE MUCKY DUCK and duck design, for restaurant services, likely to cause confusion, in view of the substantial similarity of the marks and the “unique and memorable nature” of registrant’s mark, and given that “mustard is . . . a condiment which is commonly utilized in restaurants by their patrons” and that “restaurants sometimes market their house specialties, including items such as salad dressings, through retail outlets”), aff’d per curiam, 864 F.2d 149 (Fed. Cir. 1988). Cf. In re Giovanni Food Co., 97 USPQ2d at 1991 (finding the Office had not met its burden of proving likelihood of confusion where the marks were JUMPIN’ JACKS for barbeque sauce and JUMPIN JACK’S for catering services, because evidence indicating that some restaurants also provide catering services and sell barbeque sauce was not sufficient to establish catering services alone are related to barbeque sauce); Steve’s Ice Cream v. Steve’s Famous Hot Dogs, 3 USPQ2d 1477, 1478 (TTAB 1987) (holding use of applicant’s mark, STEVE’S and design comprising hot dog characters, for restaurants featuring hot dogs, and registrant’s mark STEVE’S, for ice cream, not likely to cause confusion, where the marks differed and there was no evidence of record that applicant made or sold ice cream or that “any one business makes and sells ice cream under the same mark in connection with which it renders restaurant services”).

1207.01(a)(iii)   Reliance on Identification of Goods/Services in Registration and Application

The nature and scope of a party’s goods or services must be determined on the basis of the goods or services recited in the application or registration. See, e.g., Coach Servs., Inc. v. Triumph Learning LLC, 668 F.3d 1356, 1370, 101 USPQ2d 1713, 1722 (Fed. Cir. 2012); Hewlett-Packard Co. v. Packard Press Inc., 281 F.3d 1261, 1267, 62 USPQ2d 1001, 1004 (Fed. Cir. 2002); J & J Snack Foods Corp. v. McDonald’s Corp., 932 F.2d 1460, 1463, 18 USPQ2d 1889, 1892 (Fed. Cir. 1991); Octocom Sys., Inc. v. Houston Computer Servs., Inc., 918 F.2d 937, 942, 16 USPQ2d 1783, 1787 (Fed. Cir. 1990); Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, N.A. v. Wells Fargo Bank, 811 F.2d 1490, 1493, 1 USPQ2d 1813, 1815 (Fed. Cir. 1987); Paula Payne Prods. Co. v. Johnson Publg Co., 473 F.2d 901, 902, 177 USPQ 76, 77 (C.C.P.A. 1973); In re Giovanni Food Co., 97 USPQ2d 1990, 1991 (TTAB 2011); In re Iolo Techs., LLC, 95 USPQ2d 1498, 1500 (TTAB 2010).

If the cited registration describes goods or services broadly, and there is no limitation as to their nature, type, channels of trade, or class of purchasers, it is presumed that the registration encompasses all goods or services of the type described, that they move in all normal channels of trade, and that they are available to all classes of purchasers. See, e.g., In re Thor Tech, Inc., 90 USPQ2d 1634, 1638 (TTAB 2009) (“We have no authority to read any restrictions or limitations into the registrant’s description of goods.”); In re Jump Designs, LLC, 80 USPQ2d 1370, 1374 (TTAB 2006). Therefore, if the cited registration has a broad identification of goods or services, an applicant does not avoid likelihood of confusion merely by more narrowly identifying its related goods. See, e.g., In re Linkvest S.A., 24 USPQ2d 1716 (TTAB 1992) (noting that, where registrant’s goods are broadly identified as “computer programs recorded on magnetic disks,” without any limitation as to the kind of programs or the field of use, it must be assumed that registrant’s goods encompass all such computer programs, including computer programs of the type offered by applicant, that they travel in the same channels of trade normal for such goods, and that they are available to all classes of prospective purchasers of those goods); In re Diet Ctr., Inc., 4 USPQ2d 1975 (TTAB 1987) (noting that, although applicant had limited its identification to indicate that its goods were sold only through franchised outlets offering weight-reduction services, the cited registration’s identification contained no limitations as to trade channels or classes of customers and thus it must be presumed that registrant’s goods travel through all the ordinary channels of trade); In re Uncle Sam Chem. Co., 229 USPQ 233 (TTAB 1986) (finding that although applicant’s cleaning preparations and degreasers were limited to those for industrial and institutional use, registrant’s liquid preparations for cleaning woodwork and furniture, as identified, were not restricted to any particular trade channels or classes of customers and thus could presumably be used for institutional and industrial purposes). Similarly, there may be a likelihood of confusion where an applicant identifies its goods or services so broadly that the identification encompasses the goods or services identified in the registration of a similar mark. See, e.g., In re Fiesta Palms LLC, 85 USPQ2d 1360 (TTAB 2007) (holding CLUB PALMS MVP for casino services, and MVP for casino services offered to preferred customers identified by special identification cards, likely to cause confusion); In re Equitable Bancorporation, 229 USPQ 709 (TTAB 1986) (holding RESPONSE for banking services, and RESPONSE CARD for banking services rendered through 24-hour teller machines, likely to cause confusion).

An applicant may not restrict the scope of its goods and/or the scope of the goods covered in the registration by extrinsic argument or evidence, for example, as to the quality or price of the goods. See, e.g., In re La Peregrina Ltd., 86 USPQ2d 1645, 1647 (TTAB 2008); In re Bercut-Vandervoort & Co., 229 USPQ 763, 764–65 (TTAB 1986).

In cases where the terminology in an identification is unclear or undefined, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board has permitted an applicant to provide extrinsic evidence to show that the registrant’s identification has a specific meaning to members of the trade. See, e.g., In re Thor Tech, Inc., 90 USPQ2d 1634, 1638 & n.10 (TTAB 2009) (noting that, although extrinsic evidence may not be used to limit or restrict the identified goods, it is nonetheless proper to consider extrinsic evidence in the nature of dictionary entries to define the terminology used to describe the goods); In re Trackmobile Inc., 15 USPQ2d 1152, 1154 (TTAB 1990) (noting that, “when the description of goods for a cited registration is somewhat unclear . . . it is improper to simply consider that description in a vacuum and attach all possible interpretations to it when the applicant has presented extrinsic evidence showing that the description of goods has a specific meaning to members of the trade.”)

1207.01(a)(iv)   No “Per Se” Rule

The facts in each case vary and the weight to be given each relevant du Pont factor may be different in light of the varying circumstances; therefore, there can be no rule that certain goods or services are per se related, such that there must be a likelihood of confusion from the use of similar marks in relation thereto. See, e.g., In re White Rock Distilleries Inc., 92 USPQ2d 1282, 1285 (TTAB 2009) (regarding alcoholic beverages); Info. Res. Inc. v. X*Press Info. Servs., 6 USPQ2d 1034, 1038 (TTAB 1988) (regarding computer hardware and software); Hi-Country Foods Corp. v. Hi Country Beef Jerky, 4 USPQ2d 1169, 1171–72 (TTAB 1987) (regarding food products); In re Quadram Corp., 228 USPQ 863, 865 (TTAB 1985) (regarding computer hardware and software); In re British Bulldog, Ltd., 224 USPQ 854, 855-56 (TTAB 1984) (regarding clothing); see also M2 Software, Inc. v. M2 Commcns, Inc., 450 F.3d 1378, 1383, 78 USPQ2d 1944, 1947–48 (Fed. Cir. 2006) (noting that relatedness between software-related goods may not be presumed merely because the goods are delivered in the same media format and that, instead, a subject-matter-based mode of analysis is appropriate).

1207.01(a)(v)    Expansion-of-Trade Doctrine

The expansion-of-trade doctrine has limited application in ex parte proceedings, and the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board has indicated that “[i]t is not necessary, . . . in the context of an ex parte proceeding, for the Office to show that the owner of the particular registration that has been cited against the application has expanded or will expand its goods or services.” In re 1st USA Realty Prof’ls, Inc., 84 USPQ2d 1581, 1584 & n.4 (TTAB 2007); see also In re Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd., 98 USPQ2d 1261, 1266 (TTAB 2011).

The doctrine is typically applied in inter partes proceedings where an opposer claims that its priority of use of a mark with respect to its goods/services should be extended to include applicant’s goods/services because they are in the natural scope of expansion of opposer’s goods/services. See 1st USA Realty Prof’ls, 84 USPQ2d at 1584. However, in the ex parte context, the normal relatedness analysis is applied:

[W]e look at the question of the relatedness of the services identified in applicant's application and those in the cited registration based on whether consumers are likely to believe that the services emanate from a single source, rather than whether the Examining Attorney has shown that the registrant . . . has or is likely to expand its particular business to include the services of applicant.

Id.

To the extent the expansion-of-trade doctrine does apply in ex parte cases, it “is considered through a traditional relatedness of goods and services approach.” Id. at 1584 n.4.

1207.01(a)(vi)   Evidence Showing Relatedness of Goods or Services

The examining attorney must provide evidence showing that the goods and services are related to support a finding of likelihood of confusion. See, e.g., In re White Rock Distilleries Inc., 92 USPQ2d 1282, 1285 (TTAB 2009) (finding Office had failed to establish that wine and vodka infused with caffeine are related goods because there was no evidence that vodka and wine emanate from a single source under a single mark or that such goods are complementary products that would be bought and used together). Evidence of relatedness might include news articles and/or evidence from computer databases showing that the relevant goods/services are used together or used by the same purchasers; advertisements showing that the relevant goods/services are advertised together or sold by the same manufacturer or dealer; and/or copies of prior use-based registrations of the same mark for both applicant’s goods/services and the goods/services listed in the cited registration. See TMEP §1207.01(d)(iii) and cases cited therein regarding the probative value of third-party registrations.

The identification of goods/services in the subject application and in the cited registration(s) may in itself constitute evidence of the relatedness of the goods or services. Hewlett-Packard Co. v. Packard Press Inc., 281 F.3d 1261, 1267, 62 USPQ2d 1001, 1004 (Fed. Cir. 2002) (finding the Board erred in concluding that there was insufficient evidence of relatedness, because it "did not consider the important evidence already before it, namely the ITU application and [opposer’s] registrations”).

1207.01(b)   Similarity of the Marks

Under In re E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 476 F.2d 1357, 1361, 177 USPQ 563, 567 (C.C.P.A. 1973), the first factor requires examination of “the similarity or dissimilarity of the marks in their entireties as to appearance, sound, connotation and commercial impression.” The test of likelihood of confusion is not whether the marks can be distinguished when subjected to a side-by-side comparison, but whether the marks are sufficiently similar that there is a likelihood of confusion as to the source of the goods or services. See Midwestern Pet Foods, Inc., v. Societe Des Produits Nestle S.A., 685 F3d 1046, 1053, 103 USPQ2d 1435, 1440 (Fed. Cir. 2012); Edom Labs., Inc. v. Lichter, 102 USPQ2d 1546, 1551 (TTAB 2012); In re Iolo Techs., LLC, 95 USPQ2d 1498, 1499 (TTAB 2010). When comparing the marks, “[a]ll relevant facts pertaining to appearance, sound, and connotation must be considered before similarity as to one or more of those factors may be sufficient to support a finding that the marks are similar or dissimilar.” Recot, Inc. v. M.C. Becton, 214 F.3d 1322, 1329, 54 USPQ2d 1894, 1899 (Fed. Cir. 2000). In evaluating the similarities between marks, the emphasis must be on the recollection of the average purchaser who normally retains a general, rather than specific, impression of trademarks. E.g., In re Cynosure, Inc., 90 USPQ2d 1644, 1645 (TTAB 2009) (citing Sealed Air Corp. v. Scott Paper Co., 190 USPQ 106, 108 (TTAB 1975)).

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has provided the following guidance for evaluating the marks:

The basic principle in determining confusion between marks is that marks must be compared in their entireties and must be considered in connection with the particular goods or services for which they are used. It follows from that principle that likelihood of confusion cannot be predicated on dissection of a mark, that is, on only part of a mark. On the other hand, in articulating reasons for reaching a conclusion on the issue of confusion, there is nothing improper in stating that, for rational reasons, more or less weight has been given to a particular feature of a mark, provided the ultimate conclusion rests on consideration of the marks in their entireties. Indeed, this type of analysis appears to be unavoidable.

In re Nat’l Data Corp., 753 F.2d 1056, 1058, 224 USPQ 749, 750-51 (Fed. Cir. 1985) (footnotes omitted) (citations omitted).

Where the goods or services are identical or virtually identical, the degree of similarity between the marks necessary to support a determination that confusion is likely declines. See Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC v. Fed. Corp., 673 F.3d 1330, 1337, 102 USPQ2d 1061, 1064 (Fed. Cir. 2012); In re Viterra Inc., 671 F.3d 1358, 1363, 101 USPQ2d 1905, 1908 (Fed. Cir. 2012); In re Mighty Leaf Tea, 601 F.3d 1342, 1348, 94 USPQ2d 1257, 1260 (Fed. Cir. 2010); Century 21 Real Estate Corp. v. Century Life of Am., 970 F.2d 874, 877, 23 USPQ2d 1698, 1701 (Fed. Cir. 1992); In re Max Capital Grp. Ltd., 93 USPQ2d 1243, 1248 (TTAB 2010); In re Ginc UK Ltd., 90 USPQ2d 1472, 1477 (TTAB 2007).

1207.01(b)(i)   Word Marks

The points of comparison for a word mark are appearance, sound, meaning, and commercial impression. See Palm Bay Imps., Inc. v. Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Maison Fondee en 1772, 396 F.3d 1369, 1371, 73 USPQ2d 1689, 1691 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (citing In re E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 476 F.2d 1357, 1361, 177 USPQ 563, 567 (C.C.P.A. 1973)). Similarity of the marks in one respect – sight, sound, or meaning – will not automatically result in a determination that confusion is likely even if the goods are identical or closely related; rather, taking into account all of the relevant facts of a particular case, similarity as to one factor alone may be sufficient to support a holding that the marks are confusingly similar. See In re Thor Tech, Inc., 90 USPQ2d 1634, 1635 (TTAB 2009); In re White Swan Ltd., 8 USPQ2d 1534, 1535 (TTAB 1988).

1207.01(b)(ii)   Similarity In Appearance

Similarity in appearance is one factor to consider when comparing the marks. See In re E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 476 F.2d 1357, 1361, 177 USPQ 563, 567 (C.C.P.A. 1973). Marks may be confusingly similar in appearance despite the addition, deletion, or substitution of letters or words. See, e.g., Weiss Assocs. Inc. v. HRL Assocs. Inc., 902 F.2d 1546, 14 USPQ2d 1840 (Fed. Cir. 1990) (finding TMM confusingly similar to TMS); Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 811 F.2d 1490, 1 USPQ2d 1813 (Fed. Cir. 1987) (affirming Board’s holding that source confusion is likely where COMMCASH and COMMUNICASH are used in connection with identical banking services); Ava Enters. v. Audio Boss USA, Inc., 77 USPQ2d 1783 (TTAB 2006) (finding AUDIO BSS USA and design similar in appearance to BOSS AUDIO SYSTEMS (stylized)); In re Lamson Oil Co., 6 USPQ2d 1041 (TTAB 1987) (finding TRUCOOL and TURCOOL confusingly similar in appearance); In re Pix of Am., Inc., 225 USPQ 691 (TTAB 1985) (finding NEWPORTS and NEWPORT to be essentially identical in appearance); In re Pellerin Milnor Corp., 221 USPQ 558 (TTAB 1983) (finding MILTRON and MILLTRONICS (stylized) to be highly similar in appearance); In re BASF A.G., 189 USPQ 424 (TTAB 1975) (finding difference between marks LUTEX and LUTEXAL insufficient to avoid source confusion).

1207.01(b)(iii)   Comparing Marks That Contain Additional Matter

Determining whether there is a likelihood of confusion requires careful consideration of the nature of the common elements of the marks at issue, as well as the overall commercial impression created by each mark.

Likelihood of confusion is not necessarily avoided between otherwise confusingly similar marks merely by adding or deleting a house mark, other distinctive matter, or a term that is descriptive or suggestive of the named goods or services; if the dominant portion of both marks is the same, then the marks may be confusingly similar notwithstanding peripheral differences. See, e.g., In re Mighty Leaf Tea, 601 F.3d 1342, 1347-48, 94 USPQ2d 1257, 1260-61 (Fed. Cir. 2010) (affirming TTAB’s finding that applicant’s mark, ML, is likely to be perceived as a shortened version of registrant's mark, ML MARK LEES (stylized), when used on the same or closely related skin-care products); Palm Bay Imps., Inc. v. Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Maison Fondee En 1772, 396 F.3d 1369, 1372-73, 73 USPQ2d 1689, 1692 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (affirming TTAB’s holding that contemporaneous use of appellant’s mark, VEUVE ROYALE, for sparkling wine, and appellee’s marks, VEUVE CLICQUOT and VEUVE CLICQUOT PONSARDIN, for champagne, is likely to cause confusion, noting that the presence of the “strong distinctive term [VEUVE] as the first word in both parties’ marks renders the marks similar, especially in light of the largely laudatory (and hence non-source identifying) significance of the word ROYALE”); In re Chatam Int’l Inc., 380 F.3d 1340, 1343, 71 USPQ2d 1944, 1946 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (“Viewed in their entireties with non-dominant features appropriately discounted, the marks [GASPAR’S ALE for beer and ale and JOSE GASPAR GOLD for tequila] become nearly identical.”); Hewlett-Packard Co. v. Packard Press, Inc., 281 F.3d 1261, 1266, 62 USPQ2d 1001, 1004 (Fed. Cir. 2002) (finding that, even though applicant’s mark PACKARD TECHNOLOGIES (with “TECHNOLOGIES” disclaimed) does not incorporate every feature of opposer’s HEWLETT PACKARD marks, a similar overall commercial impression is created); In re Max Capital Grp. Ltd., 93 USPQ2d 1243, 1248 (TTAB 2010) (holding applicant's mark, MAX with pillar design, and registrant’s mark, MAX, likely to cause confusion, noting that the “addition of a column design to the cited mark . . . is not sufficient to convey that [the] marks . . . identify different sources for legally identical insurance services”); In re Toshiba Med. Sys. Corp., 91 USPQ2d 1266, 1271 (TTAB 2009) (holding VANTAGE TITAN for MRI diagnostic apparatus, and TITAN for medical ultrasound device, likely to cause confusion, noting that the marks are more similar than they are different and that the addition of applicant’s “product mark,” VANTAGE, to the registered mark would not avoid confusion); In re SL&E Training Stable, Inc., 88 USPQ2d 1216, 1219 (TTAB 2008) (holding SAM EDELMAN and EDELMAN, both for wallets and various types of bags, likely to cause confusion, noting that there are strong similarities between the marks because they share the same surname, and that consumers viewing the mark EDELMAN may perceive it as an abbreviated form of SAM EDELMAN because it is the practice in the fashion industry to refer to surnames alone); In re Chica, Inc., 84 USPQ2d 1845, 1848-49 (TTAB 2007) (holding CORAZON BY CHICA with design, and CORAZON with design, both for jewelry, likely to cause confusion, noting that, “to many consumers, applicant’s mark for the identical word ‘Corazon’ followed by the phrase ‘BY CHICA’ will simply be viewed as the identification of the previously anonymous source of the goods sold under the mark CORAZON”); In re El Torito Rests. Inc., 9 USPQ2d 2002 (TTAB 1988) (holding MACHO COMBOS (with “COMBOS” disclaimed), and MACHO (stylized), both for food items as a part of restaurant services, likely to cause confusion); In re Computer Sys. Ctr. Inc., 5 USPQ2d 1378, 1381 (TTAB 1987) (holding CSC ADVANCED BUSINESS SYSTEMS for retail computer store services and computer maintenance and repair services in connection therwith, and CSC for various computer-related services, likely to cause confusion, noting that “the inclusion of ‘ADVANCED BUSINESS SYSTEMS’ as a feature of applicant’s mark is not likely to help customers . . . distinguish the source of each party’s service”); In re Equitable Bancorporation, 229 USPQ 709, 711 (TTAB 1986) (holding RESPONSE and RESPONSE CARD (with “CARD” disclaimed), both for banking services, likely to cause confusion, noting that “the addition of descriptive matter to one of two otherwise similar, nondescriptive marks will not serve to avoid a likelihood of confusion”); In re Apparel Ventures, Inc., 229 USPQ 225, 226 (TTAB 1986) (holding applicant's mark, SPARKS BY SASSAFRAS (stylized), for clothing, and registrant's mark, SPARKS (stylized), for footwear, likely to cause confusion, noting that “[t]hose already familiar with registrant’s use of its mark in connection with its goods, upon encountering applicant’s mark on applicant’s goods, could easily assume that ‘sassafras’ is some sort of house mark that may be used with only some of the ‘SPARKS’ goods”); In re Corning Glass Works, 229 USPQ 65, 66 (TTAB 1985) (holding CONFIRM for a buffered solution equilibrated to yield predetermined dissolved gas values in a blood-gas analyzer, and CONFIRMCELLS for diagnostic blood reagents for laboratory use, likely to cause confusion, noting that the relevant consumers would view the “CELLS” portion of CONFIRMCELLS as merely descriptive); In re U.S. Shoe Corp., 229 USPQ 707, 709 (TTAB 1985) (holding CAREER IMAGE (stylized) for clothing and retail women's clothing store services, and CREST CAREER IMAGES (stylized) for uniforms, likely to cause confusion, noting that CAREER IMAGE would be perceived by consumers as a shortened form of CREST CAREER IMAGES); In re Energy Images, Inc., 227 USPQ 572, 573 (TTAB 1985) (holding SMART-SCAN (stylized) for optical line recognition and digitizing processors, and SMART for telemetry systems and remote-data gathering and control systems, likely to cause confusion, noting that, because of the descriptive significance of the term “SCAN,” it would be the portion of applicant’s mark that consumers would least likely rely upon to distinguish applicant’s goods); In re Denisi, 225 USPQ 624, 624 (TTAB 1985) (holding PERRY’S PIZZA and PERRY’S, both for restaurant services, likely to cause confusion, noting that “where a newcomer has appropriated the entire mark of a registrant, and has added to it a non-distinctive term, the marks are generally considered to be confusingly similar”); In re Riddle, 225 USPQ 630, 632 (TTAB 1985) (holding RICHARD PETTY’S ACCU TUNE and design for automotive service stations, and ACCU-TUNE for automotive testing equipment, likely to cause confusion); In re Collegian Sportswear, Inc., 224 USPQ 174, 176 (TTAB 1984) (holding COLLEGIAN OF CALIFORNIA and design (with “CALIFORNIA” disclaimed), and COLLEGIENNE, both for items of clothing, likely to cause confusion, noting that the addition of “OF CALIFORNIA” would not obviate confusion because consumers might believe that such wording denotes a new product line from the same source); In re Pierre Fabre S.A., 188 USPQ 691, 692 (TTAB 1975) (holding PEDI-RELAX for foot cream with antiperspirant properties, and RELAX for antiperspirant, likely to cause confusion).

Additions or deletions to marks may be sufficient to avoid a likelihood of confusion if: (1) the marks in their entireties convey significantly different commercial impressions; or (2) the matter common to the marks is not likely to be perceived by purchasers as distinguishing source because it is merely descriptive or diluted. See, e.g., Citigroup Inc. v. Capital City Bank Group, Inc., 637 F.3d 1344, 1356, 98 USPQ2d 1253, 1261 (Fed. Cir. 2011) (affirming TTAB’s holding that contemporaneous use of applicant’s CAPITAL CITY BANK marks for banking and financial services, and opposer’s CITIBANK marks for banking and financial services, is not likely cause confusion, based, in part, on findings that the phrase “City Bank” is frequently used in the banking industry and that ”CAPITAL” is the dominant element of applicant’s marks, which gives the marks a geographic connotation as well as a look and sound distinct from opposer’s marks); Shen Mfg. Co. v. Ritz Hotel Ltd., 393 F.3d 1238, 1245, 73 USPQ2d 1350, 1356-57 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (reversing TTAB’s holding that contemporaneous use of THE RITZ KIDS for clothing items (including gloves) and RITZ for various kitchen textiles (including barbeque mitts) is likely to cause confusion, because, inter alia, THE RITZ KIDS creates a different commercial impression); Safer, Inc. v. OMS Invs., Inc., 94 USPQ2d 1031, 1044-45 (TTAB 2010) (holding DEER-B-GON for animal repellant used to repel deer, other ruminant animals, and rabbits, and DEER AWAY and DEER AWAY PROFESSIONAL for repellant for repelling deer, other big game, and rabbits, not likely to cause confusion, noting that “DEER” is descriptive as applied to the relevant goods and thus has no source-indicating significance); Bass Pro Trademarks, L.L.C. v. Sportsman’s Warehouse, Inc., 89 USPQ2d 1844, 1857-58 (TTAB 2008) (finding that, although cancellation petitioner’s and respondent’s marks were similar by virtue of the shared descriptive wording “SPORTSMAN’S WAREHOUSE,” this similarity was outweighed by differences in terms of sound, appearance, connotation, and commercial impression created by other matter and stylization in the respective marks); In re Farm Fresh Catfish Co., 231 USPQ 495, 495-96 (TTAB 1986) (holding CATFISH BOBBERS (with “CATFISH” disclaimed) for fish, and BOBBER for restaurant services, not likely to cause confusion, because the word “BOBBER” has different connotation when used in connection with the respective goods and services); In re Shawnee Milling Co., 225 USPQ 747, 749 (TTAB 1985) (holding GOLDEN CRUST for flour, and ADOLPH’S GOLD’N CRUST and design (with “GOLD’N CRUST” disclaimed) for coating and seasoning for food items, not likely to cause confusion, noting that, because “GOLDEN CRUST” and “GOLD’N CRUST” are highly suggestive as applied to the respective goods, the addition of “ADOLPH’S” is sufficient to distinguish the marks); In re S.D. Fabrics, Inc., 223 USPQ 54, 55-56 (TTAB 1984) (holding DESIGNERS/FABRIC (stylized) for retail fabric store services, and DAN RIVER DESIGNER FABRICS and design for textile fabrics, not likely to cause confusion, noting that, because of the descriptive nature of “DESIGNERS/FABRIC” and “DESIGNER FABRICS,” the addition of “DAN RIVER” is sufficient to avoid a likelihood of confusion); see also TMEP §1207.01(b)(viii).

1207.01(b)(iv)   Similarity in Sound – Phonetic Equivalents

Similarity in sound is one factor in determining whether the marks are confusingly similar. See In re E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 476 F.2d 1357, 1361, 177 USPQ 563, 567 (C.C.P.A. 1973); In re White Swan, Ltd., 8 USPQ2d 1534, 1535 (TTAB 1988). For purposes of the §2(d) analysis, there is no “correct” pronunciation of a mark because it is impossible to predict how the public will pronounce a particular mark; therefore, “correct” pronunciation cannot be relied on to avoid a likelihood of confusion. See, e.g., In re Viterra Inc., 671 F.3d 1358, 1367, 101 USPQ2d 1905, 1912 (Fed. Cir. 2012) (upholding the Board’s affirmance of a Section 2(d) refusal to register XCEED for agricultural seed based on a likelihood of confusion with the registered mark X-SEED and design, SEED disclaimed, for identical goods); Centraz Indus. Inc. v. Spartan Chem. Co. Inc., 77 USPQ2d 1698, 1701 (TTAB 2006) (acknowledging that “there is no correct pronunciation of a trademark” and finding ISHINE (stylized) and ICE SHINE, both for floor finishing preparations, confusingly similar); In re Lamson Oil Co., 6 USPQ2d 1041, 1042 n.3 (TTAB 1987) (“[C]orrect pronunciation as desired by the applicant cannot be relied upon to avoid a likelihood of confusion.”); Kabushiki Kaisha Hattori Tokeiten v. Scuotto, 228 USPQ 461 (TTAB 1985) (holding SEYCOS and design for watches, and SEIKO for watches and clocks, likely to cause confusion); In re Great Lakes Canning, Inc., 227 USPQ 483 (TTAB 1985) (holding CAYNA (stylized) for soft drinks, and CANA for, inter alia, canned and frozen fruit and vegetable juices, likely to cause confusion); In re Energy Telecomms. & Elec. Ass’n, 222 USPQ 350 (TTAB 1983) (holding ENTELEC and design for association services relating to telecommunications and other electrical control systems for use in the energy related industries, and INTELECT for promoting, planning, and conducting expositions and exhibitions for the electrical industry, likely to cause confusion); In re Cresco Mfg. Co., 138 USPQ 401 (TTAB 1963) (holding CRESCO and design for leather jackets, and KRESSCO for hosiery, likely to cause confusion).

1207.01(b)(v)   Similarity in Meaning

Similarity in meaning or connotation is another factor in determining whether the marks are confusingly similar. See In re E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 476 F.2d 1357, 1361, 177 USPQ 563, 567 (C.C.P.A. 1973); In re Cynosure, Inc., 90 USPQ2d 1644, 1645-46 (TTAB 2009). The focus is on the recollection of the average purchaser who normally retains a general, rather than specific, impression of trademarks. E.g., In re Ass’n of the U.S. Army, 85 USPQ2d 1264, 1267-68 (TTAB 2007); In re Cont’l Graphics Corp., 52 USPQ2d 1374, 1375 (TTAB 1999); see also In re M. Serman & Co., Inc., 223 USPQ 52 (TTAB 1984) (holding CITY WOMAN for ladies’ blouses, and CITY GIRL for female clothing, likely to cause confusion); Gastown, Inc., of Del. v. Gas City, Ltd., 187 USPQ 760 (TTAB 1975) (holding GAS CITY (“GAS” disclaimed) for gasoline, and GASTOWN for gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene, and vehicle supply and maintenance services, likely to cause confusion); Watercare Corp. v. Midwesco-Enterprise, Inc., 171 USPQ 696 (TTAB 1971) (holding AQUA-CARE (stylized, with and without design) and WATERCARE (stylized), both for water-conditioning products, likely to cause confusion).

The meaning or connotation of a mark must be determined in relation to the named goods or services. Even marks that are identical in sound and/or appearance may create sufficiently different commercial impressions when applied to the respective parties’ goods or services so that there is no likelihood of confusion. See, e.g., In re Sears, Roebuck & Co., 2 USPQ2d 1312, 1314 (TTAB 1987) (holding CROSS-OVER for bras and CROSSOVER for ladies’ sportswear not likely to cause confusion, noting that the term "CROSS-OVER" was suggestive of the construction of applicant’s bras, whereas “CROSSOVER,” as applied to registrant’s goods, was “likely to be perceived by purchasers either as an entirely arbitrary designation, or as being suggestive of sportswear which “crosses over” the line between informal and more formal wear . . . or the line between two seasons”); In re British Bulldog, Ltd., 224 USPQ 854, 856 (TTAB 1984) (holding PLAYERS for men’s underwear and PLAYERS for shoes not likely to cause confusion, agreeing with applicant's argument that the term "PLAYERS" implies a fit, style, color, and durability suitable for outdoor activities when applied to shoes, but “'implies something else, primarily indoors in nature'” when applied to men’s underwear); In re Sydel Lingerie Co., 197 USPQ 629, 630 (TTAB 1977) (holding BOTTOMS UP for ladies’ and children’s underwear and BOTTOMS UP for men’s clothing not likely to cause confusion, noting that the wording connotes the drinking phrase “Drink Up” when applied to men’s clothing, but does not have this connotation when applied to ladies’ and children’s underwear).

1207.01(b)(vi)   Doctrine of Foreign Equivalents

Under the doctrine of foreign equivalents, a foreign word (from a language familiar to an appreciable segment of American consumers) and the English equivalent may be held to be confusingly similar. See, e.g., In re Thomas, 79 USPQ2d 1021 (TTAB 2006) (holding MARCHE NOIR for jewelry, and BLACK MARKET MINERALS for retail jewelry and mineral store services, likely to cause confusion); In re Am. Safety Razor Co., 2 USPQ2d 1459 (TTAB 1987) (holding BUENOS DIAS for soap, and GOOD MORNING and design for latherless shaving cream, likely to cause confusion); In re Hub Distrib., Inc., 218 USPQ 284 (TTAB 1983) (holding EL SOL for clothing and footwear, and SUN and design for footwear, likely to cause confusion).

Whether an examining attorney should apply the doctrine of foreign equivalents turns upon the significance of the foreign mark to the relevant purchasers, which is based on an analysis of the evidence of record, including, for example, dictionary, Internet, and LexisNexis® evidence. If the evidence shows that the relevant English translation is literal and direct, and no contradictory evidence of shades of meaning or other relevant meanings exists, the doctrine generally should be applied by the examining attorney. See, e.g., In re Ithaca Indus., Inc., 230 USPQ 702 (TTAB 1986) (holding LUPO for men’s and boys’ underwear, and WOLF and design for various clothing items, likely to cause confusion, because, inter alia, "LUPO" is clearly the foreign equivalent of the English word “wolf”).

If an examining attorney determines that the doctrine is applicable, the examining attorney must also consider all other relevant du Pont factors in assessing whether there is a likelihood of confusion. See In re E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 476 F.2d 1357, 1361, 177 USPQ 563, 567 (C.C.P.A. 1973); In re L’Oreal S.A., 222 USPQ 925, 926 (TTAB 1984) (noting that “similarity [of the marks] in connotation must be viewed as but a single factor in the overall evaluation of likelihood of confusion”).

1207.01(b)(vi)(A)   Background

With respect to likelihood of confusion, “[i]t is well established that foreign words or terms are not entitled to be registered if the English language equivalent has been previously used on or registered for products which might reasonably be assumed to come from the same source.” Mary Kay Cosmetics, Inc. v. Dorian Fragrances, Ltd., 180 USPQ 406, 407 (TTAB 1973).

Although words from modern languages are generally translated into English, the doctrine of foreign equivalents has evolved into a guideline, not an absolute rule, and is applied only when the “ordinary American purchaser” would “stop and translate” the foreign wording in a mark into its English equivalent. Palm Bay Imps., Inc. v. Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Maison Fondee en 1772, 396 F.3d 1369, 1377, 73 USPQ2d 1689, 1696 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (reversing holding of likelihood of confusion where the marks were VEUVE ROYALE (the French equivalent of “Royal Widow”) and THE WIDOW, deeming it improbable that American purchasers would stop and translate “VEUVE” into “widow”). The “ordinary American purchaser” includes “all American purchasers, including those proficient in a non-English language who would ordinarily be expected to translate words into English.” In re Spirits Int’l, N.V., 563 F.3d 1347, 1352, 90 USPQ2d 1489, 1492 (Fed. Cir. 2009).

With respect to the likelihood of confusion determination, the doctrine has been applied generally in the situation where the wording in one mark is entirely in English and the wording in the other mark or marks is entirely in a foreign language. See, e.g., In re Perez, 21 USPQ2d 1075 (TTAB 1991); In re Am. Safety Razor Co., 2 USPQ2d 1459 (TTAB 1987); In re Hub Distrib., Inc., 218 USPQ 284 (TTAB 1983). This is the most common scenario in the case law.

The Board, however, has applied the doctrine where the wording in both marks being compared is in the same foreign language. See In re Lar Mor Int’l, Inc., 221 USPQ 180, 181-83 (TTAB 1983) (noting that “[i]t seems to us that the fact that both marks may be comprised of foreign words should not mean that we can disregard their meanings” and translating the marks BIEN JOLIE and TRES JOLIE to compare their meanings, but concluding that confusion was not likely, despite their substantially similar meanings, because of, inter alia, the highly laudatory nature of the registered mark, BIEN JOLIE). In the Lar Mor case, the marks in question consisted of common French terms and, thus, it was perhaps more likely that the ordinary American purchaser would stop and translate such terms. Cf. Palm Bay Imps., 396 F.3d at 1377, 73 USPQ2d at 1692, 1696 (noting that the doctrine of foreign equivalents will not be applied when it is unlikely that an American buyer will translate a foreign mark and agreeing with TTAB’s determination that purchasers were unlikely to translate applicant’s French mark VEUVE ROYALE and opposer’s French marks VEUVE CLICQUOT PONSARDIN and VEUVE CLICQUOT, but concluding that confusion was likely because, inter alia, the presence of the arbitrary term “VEUVE” as the first word in both parties’ marks renders the marks similar); Brown Shoe Co. v. Robbins, 90 USPQ2d 1752, 1756 (TTAB 2009) (determining that the relevant circumstances of the case did not warrant application of the doctrine where the parties’ respective marks were the Spanish terms PALOMITA and PALOMA, but concluding that confusion was likely because, inter alia, the marks were substantially similar in appearance, pronunciation, meaning, and commercial impression).

The Board has also applied the doctrine in an inter partes case where the wording in one of the marks was in a foreign language and the wording in the other mark or marks was in a different foreign language. See Miguel Torres S.A. v. Casa Vinicola Gerardo Cesari S.R.L., 49 USPQ2d 2018 (TTAB 1998) (applying the doctrine and concluding that confusion was likely where the applicant’s mark featured the Italian wording DUE TORRI, meaning “two towers,” and the opposer’s marks featured the Spanish wording TORRES and TRES TORRES, meaning “towers” and “three towers” respectively), vacated and remanded on other grounds, 230 F.3d 1372 (Fed. Cir. 1999) (unpublished table decision). However, the Board has stated that, in general, it does not apply the doctrine where both marks are non-English words from two different foreign languages. Brown Shoe Co., 90 USPQ2d at 1756; see also Safeway Stores, Inc. v. Bel Canto Fancy Foods, Ltd., 5 USPQ2d 1980, 1982 (TTAB 1987) (“[T]his Board does not think it proper to take the French expression ‘bel air’ and the Italian expression ‘bel aria’ and then convert both into English and compare the English translations to determine whether there is similarity as to connotation . . . .”). One reason for not applying the doctrine where the marks are in different foreign languages is that it is less likely that the ordinary American purchaser would be fluent in two or more foreign languages. In Miguel Torres, the Board noted that the relevant marks were of such a nature that it was unnecessary for those encountering the relevant marks to be fluent in both Spanish and Italian to understand the connotations of the marks, because, for instance, a purchaser who is fluent in Spanish and familiar with meaning of the mark TORRES may be able to discern the meaning of a mark containing the Italian wording DUE TORRI and a design of two towers. 49 USPQ2d at 2021. In any case, the doctrine may not be as relevant, and certainly not the sole determinative factor, in a situation such as the Miguel Torres case where the marks are also similar in other respects.

The Board has yet to apply the doctrine in a published decision where the wording in one or more of the marks being compared consists of a combination of English and foreign-language words or terms. In such a case, the issue would likely remain whether the ordinary American purchaser would stop and translate these combined-language marks. The sufficiency of the translation evidence, the nature of the combined foreign and English wording (i.e., whether the wording is arbitrary, suggestive, generic, etc.), and any other relevant facts and evidence should be considered in these cases.

1207.01(b)(vi)(B)   When an Ordinary American Purchaser Would “Stop and Translate”

Issues regarding the doctrine of foreign equivalents arise early in examination, that is, at the time of conducting a search for confusingly similar marks. The search of foreign words in an applied-for mark must include a search of their English translation to ensure that all possible conflicting registrations and prior-filed applications have been identified in the event that the doctrine applies. See TMEP §§809.01-809.03 for information regarding how to ascertain the meaning of non-English wording in a mark and when a translation is required.

After conducting a complete search, an examining attorney must then assess whether a refusal under §2(d) may be warranted. If so, the examining attorney should research the English translation further using available resources, such as dictionaries, the Internet, and LexisNexis®, to ascertain whether there is sufficient evidence to support applying the doctrine.

As discussed below, if the evidence shows that the English translation is “literal and direct,” with no contradictory evidence of other relevant meanings or shades of meaning, then the doctrine should be applied, barring unusual circumstances. Further, if in its response to the application of the doctrine applicant argues that the foreign language is rare, obscure, or dead, then the examining attorney will need to provide evidence that the foreign language is a common, modern language.

English Translations – Literal and Direct

The Federal Circuit has stated that “[t]he test to be applied to a foreign word vis-a-vis an English word with respect to equivalency is not less stringent than that applicable to two English words.” In re Sarkli, Ltd., 721 F.2d 353, 354, 220 USPQ 111, 113 (Fed. Cir. 1983).

Thus, the English translation evidence is a critical factor for the Board and the courts when determining whether to apply the doctrine. If the translation evidence shows that the English translation is unambiguously literal and direct, with no other relevant connotations or variations in meaning, the doctrine has generally been applied, and, therefore, should be applied by the examining attorney. See In re La Peregrina Ltd., 86 USPQ2d 1645, 1648-50 (TTAB 2008) (holding LA PEREGRINA for jewelry, pearls, pearl jewelry, and precious stones, and PILGRIM for jewelry, likely to cause confusion, where dictionary evidence showed that “pilgrim” is an exact translation of “peregrina” and there was no other dictionary evidence to the contrary); In re Thomas, 79 USPQ2d 1021, 1024-25 (TTAB 2006) (holding MARCHE NOIR for jewelry, and BLACK MARKET MINERALS for retail jewelry and mineral store services, likely to cause confusion, where the evidence showed “MARCHE NOIR” is the exact French equivalent of the English idiom “Black Market”); In re Ithaca Indus., Inc., 230 USPQ 702, 704 (TTAB 1986) (LUPO for men’s and boys’ underwear, and WOLF and design for various clothing items, likely to cause confusion, where there was no dispute that “LUPO” is the Italian equivalent of “wolf”); In re Hub Distrib., Inc., 218 USPQ 284, 284-85 (TTAB 1983) (holding EL SOL for clothing, and SUN and design for footwear, likely to cause confusion, where “EL SOL” was determined to be the “direct foreign language equivalent” of the term “sun”); see also Ex parte Odol-Werke Wien GmbH., 111 USPQ 286, 286 (Comm’r Pats. 1956) (finding the French language mark CHAT NOIR and its English language equivalent BLACK CAT confusingly similar because “’CHAT NOIR’ undoubtedly means, and is the same as, ‘Black Cat’ to a substantial segment” of the relevant purchasers).

When determining the appropriate English translation of the foreign wording in the mark, an examining attorney should view the translations in the context of any significant features in the mark, such as design or wording elements, the identified goods and/or services in the application, the relevant marketplace, and the specimen. See, e.g., In re Perez, 21 USPQ2d 1075, 1076-77 (TTAB 1991) (holding EL GALLO for fresh vegetables, and ROOSTER for fresh citrus fruit, likely to cause confusion, rejecting applicant’s argument that purchasers would ascribe other meanings to “gallo,” where ”rooster” was the first English translation listed in a Spanish-English language dictionary entry for “gallo,” where “gallo” was the only listed Spanish translation in a dictionary entry for ”rooster,” and where the design of a rooster on the specimen reinforced the translation of “GALLO”).

Where the evidence shows that the English translation is not exact, literal, or direct, the doctrine of foreign equivalents has generally not been applied to find the marks confusingly similar. See Sarkli, 721 F.2d at 354-55, 220 USPQ at 112-13 (holding REPECHAGE for various skin-care products, and SECOND CHANCE for face creams and other toiletries, not likely to cause confusion, where the evidence failed to show that the terms were direct foreign equivalents); see also In re Buckner Enters., 6 USPQ2d 1316 (TTAB 1987) (holding DOVE (with design) for stoves and furnaces, and PALOMA for various forms of gas heating apparatus, not likely to cause confusion, because, inter alia, the Spanish word “paloma” and the English word “dove” are not exact synonyms in that “paloma” can be translated into either “dove” or “pigeon”). Thus, several translation dictionaries showing variations in the English meaning constitute evidence that the foreign word or term may not have a literal and direct translation, and the doctrine should not be applied.

Common, Modern Foreign Languages

The doctrine applies to words or terms from common, modern languages, which encompasses all but dead, obscure, or unusual languages. See Palm Bay Imps., Inc. v. Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Maison Fondee en 1772, 396 F.3d 1369, 1377, 73 USPQ2d 1689, 1696 (Fed. Cir. 2005). Thus, an examining attorney should provide evidence to show that the foreign language is a common, modern language. The type of evidence will vary depending on the particular facts of the case but, if available, the examining attorney should provide evidence of the percentage or number of United States consumers who speak the language in question. For example:

  • Census evidence provided by applicant, showing that only 0.6% of the American population speak French “very well” or “well,” was used by the Board against the applicant to find that French is a commonly spoken language and that, of the foreign languages with the greatest number of speakers in the United States, French was second only to Spanish. Thomas, 79 USPQ2d at 1024.
  • Evidence showing that 706,000 Russian-speakers live in the United States was persuasive evidence to establish that a “significant portion of consumers” would understand the English meaning of the Russian mark for Russian vodka. In re Joint Stock Co. “Baik,” 80 USPQ2d 1305, 1310 (TTAB 2006).

Census evidence identifying the number of people who speak various foreign languages in the United States can be found at http://www.census.gov/hhes/socdemo/language/.

If such evidence is unavailable or unpersuasive, the examining attorney may instead provide other evidence that the language in question is a common, modern language by establishing, for example, that the foreign country where the language is spoken is a prominent trading partner of the United States or that the foreign language is spoken by a sizeable world population. Such evidence may be obtained from the USPTO’s Translations Branch, as well as the Internet, LexisNexis®, and any other relevant electronic or print resources.

If evidence shows that the language at issue is highly obscure or a dead language, the doctrine will generally not be applied. See Palm Bay Imps., 396 F.3d at 1377, 73 USPQ2d 1689, 1696; cf. In re Spirits Int’l, N.V., 563 F.3d 1347, 1351, 90 USPQ2d 1489, 1491 (Fed. Cir. 2009) (indicating that the doctrine of foreign equivalents does not require that terms from dead or obscure languages be literally translated for the purpose of determining descriptiveness). The determination of whether a language is “dead” is made on a case-by-case basis, based upon the meaning the word or term would have to the relevant purchasing public. For example, Latin is generally considered a dead language. However, if evidence shows that a Latin term is still in use by the relevant purchasing public (i.e., if the term appears in current dictionaries or news articles), then this Latin term would not be considered dead. The same analysis is applied to other words or terms from uncommon or obscure languages.

Other Considerations: Alternate Meaning of Mark and Marketplace Circumstances of the Commercial Setting in Which the Mark is Used

The Board may also review the evidence of record to determine the following:

  • (1) Whether the foreign wording has a meaning in the relevant marketplace that differs from the translated meaning in English; and/or
  • (2) Whether it is more or less likely that the foreign expression will be translated by purchasers because of the manner in which the term is encountered in the marketing environment as used in connection with the goods and/or services.

See Thomas, 79 USPQ2d at 1025-26; see also In re Jos. Schlitz Brewing Co., 223 USPQ 45, 45-46 (TTAB 1983) (considering whether purchasers would be likely to translate the mark “KUHLBRAU” into its merely descriptive English equivalent, “cool brew”). In making such determinations, the Board generally reviews evidence such as dictionary definitions, declarations, and specimens.

Typically, the doctrine will not be applied where the foreign wording has developed an alternate meaning in the relevant marketplace that is different from the translated meaning in English, and the evidence shows that the alternate meaning would be understood by the relevant purchasing public. See La Peregrina, 86 USPQ2d at 1649 (finding that if sufficient evidence had been provided to show that the Spanish-language mark LA PEREGRINA, which translates to mean “the pilgrim,” for goods including pearls and pearl jewelry, was viewed by the relevant purchasing public as the “name of a very famous and unique pearl,” such would be a situation “where purchasers would not translate the name”); cf. Cont’l Nut Co. v. Le Cordon Bleu S.a.r.l., 494 F.2d 1395, 1396-97, 181 USPQ 646, 647 (C.C.P.A. 1974) (finding that applicant’s ownership of a prior registration for “BLUE RIBBON” did not preclude opposer from asserting damage resulting from applicant’s registration of the mark CORDON BLEU, (which literally translates to “blue ribbon”) because CORDON BLEU would not be translated by, or have the same significance to, an American purchaser in view of the adoption by the English language of the wording CORDON BLEU, as evidenced by American English dictionary entries indicating that such wording refers to a highly skilled cook).

The doctrine also typically will not be applied where the record indicates that it is unlikely purchasers would translate the mark because of “marketplace circumstances or the commercial setting in which the mark is used.” La Peregrina, 86 USPQ2d at 1648; see also Thomas, 79 USPQ2d at 1026 (finding “MARCHE NOIR” confusingly similar to “BLACK MARKET MINERALS,” but suggesting that a different conclusion might have been reached if the marketplace circumstances or commercial setting in which the mark was used were such that it would be unlikely for purchasers to translate “MARCHE NOIR”); In re Tia Maria, Inc., 188 USPQ 524, 525-26 (TTAB 1975) (holding TIA MARIA (which translates to “Aunt Mary”) for restaurant services, and AUNT MARY’S for canned fruits and vegetables, not likely to cause confusion, because, inter alia, a person dining at the TIA MARIA restaurant surrounded by its Mexican décor and Mexican food, would be likely to accept “TIA MARIA” as it is and not translate it into “AUNT MARY”).

1207.01(b)(vi)(C)   Likelihood of Confusion Factors Still Apply When Assessing Whether Marks are Confusingly Similar

If the examining attorney has sufficient evidence to show that foreign wording comprising a mark has a relevant, literal, and direct English translation such that the foreign wording has an English language equivalent, then the doctrine generally should be applied. However, applying the doctrine is only part of the process of determining whether the marks being compared are confusingly similar. Appearance, sound, meaning, and overall commercial impression are also factors to be considered when comparing marks. See Palm Bay Imps. v. Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Maison Fondee en 1772, 396 F.3d 1369, 1371, 73 USPQ2d 1689, 1691 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (citing In re E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 476 F.2d 1357, 1361, 177 USPQ 563, 567 (C.C.P.A. 1973); In re Ness & Co., 18 USPQ2d 1815, 1816 (TTAB 1991) (“’[S]uch similarity as there is in connotation [between the foreign word mark and the English word mark] must be weighed against the dissimilarity in appearance, sound, and all other factors, before reaching a conclusion on likelihood of confusion as to source.’” (quoting In re Sarkli, Ltd., 721 F.2d 353, 354, 220 USPQ 111, 113 (Fed. Cir. 1983))).

Similarity of the marks in one respect – sight, sound, or meaning – does not automatically result in a finding of likelihood of confusion even if the goods are identical or closely related; rather, the rule is that, taking into account all of the relevant facts of a particular case, similarity as to one factor alone may be sufficient to support a holding that the marks are confusingly similar. See In re Thor Tech, Inc., 90 USPQ2d 1634, 1635 (TTAB 2009); In re White Swan Ltd., 8 USPQ2d 1534, 1535 (TTAB 1988); TMEP §1207.01(b)(i).

For example, if the English and foreign marks being compared are weak or highly suggestive, or have additional wording or matter that serves to distinguish the marks, then regardless of application of the doctrine and similarity in meaning, the marks may not be considered confusingly similar. See Ness & Co., 18 USPQ2d at 1816 (holding GOOD-NESS for cheese and meats, and LABONTE (which translates to “the goodness”) for cheese, not likely cause confusion, because of the laudatory nature of the term "goodness," the dissimilarity of the marks in appearance and sound, the slight differences in meaning of the marks, and the connotation of the mark GOOD-NESS in relation to applicant’s company name “Ness & Co.”); In re L’Oreal S.A., 222 USPQ 925, 925-26 (TTAB 1984) (considering the English translation of the French mark HAUTE MODE (meaning “high fashion” in English), but concluding that contemporaneous use with the HI-FASHION SAMPLER was not likely to cause confusion, because of, inter alia, the "less than wholly arbitrary nature of the marks" and the differences in the marks, including the addition of the term SAMPLER in the English-language mark).

If both marks being compared are in a foreign language and have the same or a very similar meaning when translated, the following factors should also be assessed: (1) whether the English meaning of the marks is weak or highly suggestive with respect to the goods and/or services; and (2) whether the marks being compared are similar in sound and/or appearance in addition to having the same or similar meaning. If the marks are not weak or highly suggestive and are similar in meaning and sound, they may be found to be confusingly similar. See Miguel Torres S.A v. Casa Vinicola Gerardo Cesari S.R. L., 49 USPQ2d 2018 (applying the doctrine and concluding that confusion was likely where the applicant’s mark featured the Italian wording DUE TORRI, meaning “two towers,” and opposer's marks featured the Spanish wording TORRES and TRES TORRES, meaning “towers” and “three towers” respectively, because the marks were similar not only in connotation but also in sound) , vacated and remanded on other grounds, 230 F.3d 1372 (Fed. Cir. 1999) (unpublished table decision); In re Lar Mor Int'l, Inc., 221 USPQ 180 (translating the marks BIEN JOLIE and TRES JOLIE to compare their meanings, but concluding that confusion was not likely, despite the marks’ substantially similar meanings, because of, inter alia, the highly laudatory nature of the wording “JOLIE,” and the “obvious visual and phonetic differences” between the marks).

In addition, when comparing only foreign language marks, even if it is determined that the marks are not likely to be translated by purchasers, the marks may still be found confusingly similar for other reasons, such as similarity in sound and/or appearance. See Palm Bay Imps., 396 F.3d at 1372-73, 1377, 73 USPQ2d at 1691, 1696 (agreeing with Board’s finding that purchasers would not translate into English applicant’s French mark VEUVE ROYALE and opposer’s French marks VEUVE CLICQUOT PONSARDIN and VEUVE CLICQUOT, and upholding the Board’s determination that confusion was nonetheless likely as to these marks, because, inter alia, “the presence of [the] strong distinctive term [VEUVE] as the first word in both parties’ marks renders the marks similar, especially in light of the largely laudatory . . . significance of the word ROYALE”).

See also TMEP §§1209.03(g), 1210.05(b), 1210.10, and 1211.01(a)(vii) for additional information regarding the doctrine of foreign equivalents.

1207.01(b)(vii)   Transposition of Terms

Where the primary difference between marks is the transposition of the elements that compose the marks, and where this transposition does not change the overall commercial impression, there may be a likelihood of confusion. See, e.g., In re Wine Soc’y of Am. Inc., 12 USPQ2d 1139, 1142 (TTAB 1989) (holding THE WINE SOCIETY OF AMERICA and design for wine club membership services including the supplying of printed materials, and AMERICAN WINE SOCIETY 1967 and design for newsletters, bulletins, and journals, likely to cause confusion); In re Nationwide Indus., Inc., 6 USPQ2d 1882, 1884 (TTAB 1988) (holding RUST BUSTER (with “RUST” disclaimed) for rust-penetrating spray lubricant, and BUST RUST for penetrating oil, likely to cause confusion); In re Gen. Tire & Rubber Co., 213 USPQ 870, 871 (TTAB 1982) (holding SPRINT STEEL RADIAL (with “STEEL” and “RADIAL” disclaimed) for pneumatic tires, and RADIAL SPRINT (with “RADIAL” disclaimed) for radial tires, likely to cause confusion).

However, if the transposed mark creates a distinctly different commercial impression, then confusion is not likely. See, e.g., In re Best Prods. Co., 231 USPQ 988, 989-90 (TTAB 1986) (holding BEST JEWELRY and design (with “JEWELRY” disclaimed) for retail jewelry store services, and JEWELERS’ BEST for bracelets, not likely to cause confusion).

1207.01(b)(viii)   Marks Consisting of Multiple Words

When assessing the likelihood of confusion between compound word marks, one must determine whether a portion of the word mark is dominant in terms of creating the commercial impression. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has noted that “in articulating reasons for reaching a conclusion on the issue of confusion, there is nothing improper in stating that, for rational reasons, more or less weight has been given to a particular feature of a mark, provided the ultimate conclusion rests on consideration of the marks in their entireties.” In re Nat’l Data Corp., 753 F.2d 1056, 1058, 224 USPQ 749, 750-51 (Fed. Cir. 1985). Although there is no mechanical test to select a “dominant” element of a compound word mark, consumers would be more likely to perceive a fanciful or arbitrary term, rather than a descriptive or generic term, as the source-indicating feature of the mark. See, e.g., In re Dixie Rests., Inc., 105 F.3d 1405, 1407, 41 USPQ2d 1531, 1533-34 (Fed. Cir. 1997) (affirming TTAB’s finding that “DELTA,” not the disclaimed generic term “CAFE,” is the dominant portion of the mark THE DELTA CAFE); In re Binion, 93 USPQ2d 1531, 1534 (TTAB 2009) (finding that “BINION’S,” not the disclaimed descriptive wording “ROADHOUSE,” is the dominant portion of the mark BINION’S ROADHOUSE). Accordingly, if two marks for related goods or services share identical or similar dominant features and the marks, when viewed in their entireties, create similar overall commercial impressions, then confusion is likely. See, e.g., In re Cynosure, Inc., 90 USPQ2d 1644 (TTAB 2009) (holding CYNERGY for medical lasers for, inter alia, treatment of the face and skin, and SYNERGIE PEEL for medical devices for microdermabrasion, likely to cause confusion, noting that “SYNERGIE” is the dominant portion of the cited mark and “PEEL” is insufficient to distinguish the marks); In re J.M. Originals Inc., 6 USPQ2d 1393 (TTAB 1987) (holding JM ORIGINALS (with “ORIGINALS” disclaimed) for various items of apparel, and JM COLLECTABLES for sport shirts, likely to cause confusion).

If the common element of two marks is “weak” in that it is generic, descriptive, or highly suggestive of the named goods or services, it is unlikely that consumers will be confused unless the overall combinations have other commonality. See, e.g., In re Bed & Breakfast Registry, 791 F.2d 157, 159 229 USPQ 818, 819 (Fed. Cir. 1986) (reversing TTAB’s holding that contemporaneous use of BED & BREAKFAST REGISTRY for making lodging reservations for others in private homes, and BED & BREAKFAST INTERNATIONAL for room booking agency services, is likely to cause confusion, because, inter alia, the descriptive nature of the shared wording weighed against a finding that the marks are confusingly similar); U.S. Shoe Corp. v. Chapman, 229 USPQ 74 (TTAB 1985) (holding COBBLER’S OUTLET for shoes, and CALIFORNIA COBBLERS (in typed and stylized forms) for footwear and women’s shoes, not likely to cause confusion); In re Istituto Sieroterapico E Vaccinogeno, Toscano “SCLAVO” S.p.A., 226 USPQ 1035 (TTAB 1985) (holding ASO QUANTUM (stylized, with “ASO” disclaimed) for diagnostic laboratory reagents, and QUANTUM I for laboratory instruments for analyzing body fluids, not likely to cause confusion); see alsoTMEP §§1207.01(b)(iii), (b)(ix).

However, while the public may rely more on the nondescriptive portions of marks to distinguish them, "this does not mean that the public looks only at the differences [between the marks], or that descriptive words play no role in creating confusion." Nat’l Data Corp., F.2d at 1060, 224 USPQ at 752.

1207.01(b)(ix)    Weak or Descriptive Marks

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board have recognized that merely descriptive and weak designations may be entitled to a narrower scope of protection than an entirely arbitrary or coined word. See Palm Bay Imps., Inc. v. Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Maison Fondee en 1772, 396 F.3d 1369, 1373, 73 USPQ2d 1689, 1693 (Fed. Cir. 2005); Giersch v. Scripps Networks, Inc., 90 USPQ2d 1020, 1026 (TTAB 2009); In re Box Solutions Corp., 79 USPQ2d 1953, 1957-58 (TTAB 2006); In re Cent. Soya Co., 220 USPQ 914, 916 (TTAB 1984). However, even a weak mark is entitled to protection against the registration of a similar mark for closely related goods or services. See King Candy Co. v. Eunice King’s Kitchen, Inc., 496 F.2d 1400, 1401 182 USPQ 108, 109 (C.C.P.A. 1974).

With respect to marks registered on the Supplemental Register, the Board stated the following in In re Hunke & Jochheim:

[R]egistration on the Supplemental Register may be considered to establish prima facie that, at least at the time of registration, the registered mark possessed a merely descriptive significance. This is significant because it is well established that the scope of protection afforded a merely descriptive or even a highly suggestive term is less than that accorded an arbitrary or coined mark. That is, terms falling within the former category have been generally categorized as “weak” marks, and the scope of protection extended to these marks has been limited to the substantially identical notation and/or to the subsequent use and registration thereof for substantially similar goods.

185 USPQ 188, 189 (TTAB 1975) (citation omitted).

However, even marks that are registered on the Supplemental Register may be cited under §2(d). In re Clorox Co., 578 F.2d 305, 308-09, 198 USPQ 337, 341 (C.C.P.A. 1978).

1207.01(b)(x)    Parody Marks

The fact that a mark is intended to be a parody of another trademark is not, by itself, sufficient to overcome a likelihood of confusion refusal, because “[t]here are confusing parodies and non-confusing parodies.” J. Thomas McCarthy, McCarthy on Trademarks and Unfair Competition, §31.153 (4th ed. 2010); see also Nike, Inc. v. Maher, 100 USPQ2d 1018, 1023 (TTAB 2011) (“[P]arody is not a defense if the marks would otherwise be considered confusingly similar.”). “A true parody actually decreases the likelihood of confusion because the effect of the parody is to create a distinction in the viewer’s mind between the actual product and the joke.” Mutual of Omaha Ins. Co. v. Novak, 648 F. Supp. 905, 910, 231 USPQ 963, 965 (D. Neb. 1986), aff’d, 836 F.2d 397, 5 USPQ2d 1314 (8th Cir. 1987). Thus, ”[w]hile a parody must call to mind the actual product to be successful, the same success also necessarily distinguishes the parody from the actual product.” Id.

Cases involving a discussion of parody include the following: Research in Motion Ltd. v. Defining Presence Mktg. Grp., Inc., 102 USPQ2d 1187, 1192 (TTAB 2012) (sustaining oppositions to applications for the mark CRACKBERRY, for a variety of online computer services and clothing items, on the bases of a likelihood of confusion and likelihood of dilution by blurring with the mark BLACKBERRY, for handheld devices, including smartphones, and related goods and services, noting that “likelihood of confusion will usually trump any First Amendment concerns”); Starbucks U.S. Brands, LLC v. Ruben, 78 USPQ2d 1741 (TTAB 2006) (holding contemporaneous use of applicant’s mark, LESSBUCKS COFFEE, and opposer’s marks, STARBUCKS and STARBUCKS COFFEE, for identical goods and services, likely to cause confusion, noting that “parody is unavailing to applicant as an outright defense and, further, does not serve to distinguish the marks”); Columbia Pictures Indus., Inc. v. Miller, 211 USPQ 816, 820 (TTAB 1981) (holding CLOTHES ENCOUNTERS for clothing, and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND for t-shirts, likely to cause confusion, noting that the “right of the public to use words in the English language in a humorous and parodic manner does not extend to use of such words as trademarks if such use conflicts with the prior use and/or registration of the substantially same mark by another”); see also Jordache Enters. v. Hogg Wyld Ltd., 828 F.2d 1482, 4 USPQ2d 1216, 1220, 1222 (10th Cir. 1987) (noting that “a parody of an existing trademark can cause a likelihood of confusion,” but affirming district court’s holding that contemporaneous use of LARDASHE and JORDACHE, both for jeans, is not likely to cause confusion).

1207.01(c)   Design Marks

When the marks at issue are both design marks, the similarity of the marks must be decided primarily on the basis of visual similarity. E.g., In re Vienna Sausage Mfg. Co., 16 USPQ2d 2044, 2047 (TTAB 1990). In this situation, consideration must be given to the fact that the marks usually will not be viewed side-by-side in the marketplace and a purchaser’s recollection of design marks is often of a general, rather than specific, nature; thus the marks may be confusingly similar despite differences between them. See, e.g., In re United Serv. Distribs., Inc., 229 USPQ 237 (TTAB 1986) (holding mark consisting of a design featuring silhouettes of a man and woman, used in connection with distributorship services in the field of health and beauty aids, and mark consisting of a design featuring silhouettes of a man and woman, used in connection with skin cream, likely to cause confusion); In re Steury Corp., 189 USPQ 353 (TTAB 1975) (holding mark consisting of three generally horizontal bars, for, inter alia, boats, campers, and travel trailers, and mark consisting of two generally horizontal bars, for, inter alia, boats, campers, and travel trailers, likely to cause confusion); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Sanders Assocs., Inc., 177 USPQ 720 (TTAB 1973) (holding mark consisting of a triangular arrow design within a square border, for various items of electrical and electronic equipment, and mark consisting of a triangular arrow design, for various items of electrical and electronic equipment, likely to cause confusion); cf. Red Carpet Corp. v. Johnstown Am. Enters., 7 USPQ2d 1404 (TTAB 1988) (holding mark consisting of a highly stylized house design for use in connection with real estate property management, and mark consisting of a highly stylized house design for use in connection with real estate brokerage services, not likely to cause confusion); Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. v. Ocean Garden Prods., Inc., 223 USPQ 1027 (TTAB 1984) (holding mark consisting of a circle containing three curved lines with rounded ends, for seafood, and mark consisting of a stylized breaking wave within an oval, for various food items including juices and fruits, not likely to cause confusion).

1207.01(c)(i)   Legal Equivalents – Comparison of Words and Their Equivalent Designs

Under the doctrine of legal equivalents, which is based on a recognition that a pictorial depiction and equivalent wording are likely to impress the same mental image on purchasers, a design mark may be found to be confusingly similar to a word mark consisting of the design's literal equivalent. See, e.g., In re Rolf Nilsson AB, 230 USPQ 141 (TTAB 1986) (holding applicant’s mark consisting of a silhouette of a lion’s head and the letter “L,” for shoes, and registrant’s mark, LION, for shoes, likely to cause confusion); Puma-Sportschuhfabriken Rudolf Dassler KG v. Garan, Inc., 224 USPQ 1064 (TTAB 1984) (holding applicant’s marks featuring a design of a mountain lion, for clothing items, and opposer’s marks, a puma design and PUMA (with and without puma design), for items of clothing and sporting goods, likely to cause confusion); In re Duofold Inc., 184 USPQ 638 (TTAB 1974) (holding mark consisting of a design of an eagle lined for the color gold, for sports apparel, and mark consisting of GOLDEN EAGLE and design of an eagle, for various items of clothing, likely to cause confusion).

Where, however, a pictorial representation in a mark is so highly stylized or abstract that it would not readily evoke in the purchaser’s mind the wording featured in another mark, the marks may not be confusingly similar. See, e.g., In re Serac, Inc., 218 USPQ 340, 341 (TTAB 1983) (concluding that applicant’s design mark was “so highly stylized that an image of a ram’s head would not be immediately discerned and the connection with [the registered mark] ‘RAM’s HEAD’ would not be readily evoked with the resulting generation of a likelihood of source confusion”).

1207.01(c)(ii)   Composite Marks Consisting of Both Words and Designs

Often, the examining attorney must determine whether a likelihood of confusion exists between composite marks that consist of a design element combined with words and/or letters. Frequently, the marks at issue are similar in only one element. Although it is not proper to dissect a mark, if one feature of a mark is more significant than another feature, greater weight may be given to the dominant feature for purposes of determining likelihood of confusion. See, e.g., In re Viterra Inc., 671 F.3d 1358, 1362, 101 USPQ2d 1905, 1908 (Fed. Cir. 2012); Giant Food, Inc. v. Nation’s Foodservice, Inc., 710 F.2d 1565, 1570-71, 218 USPQ 390, 395 (Fed. Cir. 1983); see also TMEP §1207.01(b)(iii). However, the fundamental rule in this situation is that the marks must be considered in their entireties. See In re Shell Oil Co., 992 F.2d 1204, 1206, 26 USPQ2d 1687, 1688 (Fed. Cir. 1993); Massey Junior Coll., Inc. v. Fashion Inst. of Tech., 492 F.2d 1399, 1402, 181 USPQ 272, 273-74 (C.C.P.A. 1974).

If a mark comprises both wording and a design, greater weight is often given to the wording, because it is the wording that purchasers would use to refer to or request the goods or services. See, e.g., Viterra, 671 F.3d at 1366, 101 USPQ2d at 1911; In re Max Capital Grp. Ltd., 93 USPQ2d 1243, 1247 (TTAB 2010); In re Appetito Provisions Co. Inc., 3 USPQ2d 1553, 1554 (TTAB 1987). The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has cautioned, however, that “[t]here is no general rule as to whether letters or designs will dominate in composite marks; nor is the dominance of letters or design dispositive of the issue.” In re Electrolyte Labs. Inc., 929 F.2d 645, 647, 16 USPQ2d 1239, 1240 (Fed. Cir. 1990).

The comparison of composite marks must be done on a case-by-case basis, without reliance on mechanical rules of construction. See, e.g., Spice Islands, Inc. v. Frank Tea & Spice Co., 505 F.2d 1293, 184 USPQ 35 (C.C.P.A. 1974) (reversing TTAB’s holding that SPICE TREE with tree design, for garlic powder and minced onion, and SPICE ISLANDS with and without tree design, for seasoning herbs and spices, is not likely to cause confusion); In re White Rock Distilleries Inc., 92 USPQ2d 1282 (TTAB 2009) (holding VOLTA for vodka infused with caffeine, and TERZA VOLTA and vine shoot design for wines, not likely to cause confusion); In re Sun Supermarkets, Inc., 228 USPQ 693 (TTAB 1986) (holding applicant’s mark, SUN SUPERMARKETS with sun design, for retail supermarket services, and registrant’s marks, SUNSHINE and SUNRISE (both with sun designs), for retail grocery store services, likely to cause confusion).

1207.01(c)(iii)   Comparison of Standard Character Marks and Special Form Marks

If a mark (in either an application or a registration) is presented in standard characters, the owner of the mark is not limited to any particular depiction of the mark. Cunningham v. Laser Golf Corp., 222 F.3d 943, 950, 55 USPQ2d 1842, 1847 (Fed. Cir. 2000); In re Cox Enters., 82 USPQ2d 1040, 1044 (TTAB 2007). The rights associated with a mark in standard characters reside in the wording (or other literal element, e.g., letters, numerals, punctuation) and not in any particular display. In re White Rock Distilleries Inc., 92 USPQ2d 1282, 1284 (TTAB 2009). A registrant is entitled to all depictions of a standard character mark regardless of the font style, size, or color, and not merely "reasonable manners" of depicting such mark. See In re Viterra Inc., 671 F.3d 1358, 1364-65, 101 USPQ2d 1905, 1910 (Fed. Cir. 2012); Citigroup Inc. v. Capital City Bank Group, Inc., 637 F.3d 1344, 1353, 98 USPQ2d 1253, 1259 (Fed. Cir. 2011). Therefore, an applicant cannot, by presenting its mark in special form, avoid likelihood of confusion with a mark that is registered in standard characters because the registered mark presumably could be used in the same manner of display. See, e.g., In re RSI Sys., LLC, 88 USPQ2d 1445, 1448 (TTAB 2008); In re Melville Corp., 18 USPQ2d 1386, 1388 (TTAB 1991); In re Pollio Dairy Prods. Corp., 8 USPQ2d 2012, 2015 (TTAB 1988). Likewise, the fact that an applied-for mark is presented in standard character form would not, by itself, be sufficient to distinguish it from a similar mark in special form. See, e.g., In re Mighty Leaf Tea, 601 F.3d 1342, 1348, 94 USPQ2d 1257, 1260 (Fed. Cir. 2010); Sunnen Prods. Co. v. Sunex Int’l, Inc., 1 USPQ2d 1744, 1747 (TTAB 1987); In re Hester Indus., Inc., 231 USPQ 881, 882 n.6 (TTAB 1986).

See TMEP §§807.03-807.04(b) regarding standard character and special form drawings.

1207.01(c)(iv)   Matter Depicted in Broken Lines

In some cases, where the position of the mark on the goods (or on a label or container for the goods) is a feature of the mark, the applicant will submit a drawing that shows the placement of the mark by surrounding the mark with a proportionately accurate broken-line representation of the particular goods, packaging, or advertising on which the mark appears. 37 C.F.R. §2.52(b)(4); TMEP §807.08.

The matter depicted in broken lines is not part of the mark and should not be considered in determining likelihood of confusion. See In re Homeland Vinyl Prods., Inc., 81 USPQ2d 1378, 1382 (TTAB 2006).

1207.01(d)   Miscellaneous Considerations

1207.01(d)(i)   Doubt Resolved in Favor of Registrant

If there is any doubt as to whether there is a likelihood of confusion, that doubt must be resolved in favor of the prior registrant. See In re Shell Oil Co., 992 F.2d 1204, 1209, 26 USPQ2d 1687, 1691 (Fed. Cir. 1993); In re Hyper Shoppes (Ohio), Inc., 837 F.2d 463, 464-65, 6 USPQ2d 1025, 1026 (Fed. Cir. 1988); In re G.B.I. Tile & Stone, Inc., 92 USPQ2d 1366, 1372 (TTAB 2009).

1207.01(d)(ii)   Absence of Actual Confusion

It is well settled that the relevant test is likelihood of confusion, not actual confusion; thus, it is unnecessary to show actual confusion to establish likelihood of confusion. Herbko Int’l, Inc. v. Kappa Books, Inc., 308 F.3d 1156, 1165, 64 USPQ2d 1375, 1380 (Fed. Cir. 2002); Weiss Assocs. Inc. v. HRL Assocs. Inc., 902 F.2d 1546, 1549, 14 USPQ2d 1840, 1842-43 (Fed. Cir. 1990); In re Big Pig, 81 USPQ2d 1436, 1439-40 (TTAB 2006).

1207.01(d)(iii)   Third-Party Registrations and Evidence of Third-Party Use

Generally, the existence of third-party registrations cannot justify the registration of another mark that is so similar to a previously registered mark as to create a likelihood of confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive. E.g., In re Max Capital Grp. Ltd., 93 USPQ2d 1243, 1248 (TTAB 2010); In re Toshiba Med. Sys. Corp., 91 USPQ2d 1266, 1272 (TTAB 2009). However, third-party registrations may be relevant to show that a mark or a portion of a mark is descriptive, suggestive, or so commonly used that the public will look to other elements to distinguish the source of the goods or services. See, e.g., In re Hartz Hotel Servs., Inc., 102 USPQ2d 1150, 1153-54 (TTAB 2012); In re Melville Corp., 18 USPQ2d 1386, 1388 (TTAB 1991); In re Dayco Products-Eaglemotive Inc., 9 USPQ2d 1910, 1911-12 (TTAB 1988); Plus Prods. v. Star-Kist Foods, Inc., 220 USPQ 541, 544 (TTAB 1983). Properly used in this limited manner, third-party registrations are similar to dictionaries showing how language is generally used. See, e.g., Tektronix, Inc. v. Daktronics, Inc., 534 F.2d 915, 917, 189 USPQ 693, 694-95 (C.C.P.A. 1976); In re J.M. Originals Inc., 6 USPQ2d 1393, 1394 (TTAB 1987); United Foods Inc. v. J.R. Simplot Co., 4 USPQ2d 1172, 1174 (TTAB 1987).

Third-party registrations that cover a number of different goods or services may have some probative value to the extent that they may serve to suggest that goods or services are of a type that may emanate from a single source, if the registrations are based on use in commerce. In re Mucky Duck Mustard Co., 6 USPQ2d 1467, 1470 n.6 (TTAB), aff’d per curiam, 864 F.2d 149 (Fed. Cir. 1988); see also In re Princeton Tectonics, Inc., 95 USPQ2d 1509, 1511 (TTAB 2010) (“While third-party registrations can play an important role in establishing that the types of goods at issue are related, examining attorneys must review the registrations carefully to ensure that each registration presented is probative and that the number of registrations is sufficient, along with other types of evidence, to establish that the types of goods at issue are related.”). Third-party registrations that are not based on use in commerce, such as those registered under §66 of the Trademark Act (15 U.S.C. §1141f(a)), or those registered solely under §44 of the Trademark Act (15 U.S.C. §1126(e)), and for which no §8 or §71 affidavits or declarations of continuing use have been filed (15 U.S.C. §1058), have very little, if any, persuasive value. See Calypso Tech., Inc. v. Calypso Capital Mgmt., LP, 100 USPQ2d 1213, 1221 n.15 (TTAB 2011); In re 1st USA Realty Prof’ls, Inc., 84 USPQ2d 1581, 1583 (TTAB 2007); In re Albert Trostel & Sons Co., 29 USPQ2d 1783, 1786 (TTAB 1993).

A list of registrations or a copy of a search report is not proper evidence of third-party registrations. See, e.g., In re Promo Ink, 78 USPQ2d 1301, 1304 (TTAB 2006); In re Dos Padres, Inc., 49 USPQ2d 1860, 1861 n.2 (TTAB 1998); TBMP §1208.02. To make registrations of record, copies of the registrations or the electronic equivalent thereof (i.e., printouts or electronic copies of the registrations taken from the electronic database of the USPTO) must be submitted. In re Ruffin Gaming, LLC, 66 USPQ2d 1924, 1925 n.3 (TTAB 2002); In re Smith & Mehaffey, 31 USPQ2d 1531, 1532 n.3 (TTAB 1994);TBMP §1208.02; TMEP §710.03.

Evidence of third-party use falls under the sixth du Pont factor – the “number and nature of similar marks in use on similar goods.” In re E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 476 F.2d 1357, 1361, 177 USPQ 563, 567 (C.C.P.A. 1973). If the evidence establishes that the consuming public is exposed to third-party use of similar marks on similar goods, it “is relevant to show that a mark is relatively weak and entitled to only a narrow scope of protection.” Palm Bay Imps., Inc. v. Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Maison Fondee en 1772, 396 F.3d 1369, 1373-74, 73 USPQ2d 1689, 1693 (Fed. Cir. 2005).

1207.01(d)(iv)   Collateral Attack on Registration Improper in Ex Parte Proceeding

Section 7(b) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1057(b), provides that a certificate of registration on the Principal Register shall be prima facie evidence of the validity of the registration, of the registrant’s ownership of the mark, and of the registrant’s exclusive right to use the mark in commerce in connection with the goods or services specified in the certificate. During ex parte prosecution, an applicant will not be heard on matters that constitute a collateral attack on the cited registration (e.g., a registrant’s nonuse of the mark). See In re Dixie Rests., Inc., 105 F.3d 1405, 1408, 41 USPQ2d 1531, 1534-35 (Fed. Cir. 1997); In re Fiesta Palms, LLC, 85 USPQ2d 1360, 1363 (TTAB 2007); In re Peebles Inc. 23 USPQ2d 1795, 1797 n.5 (TTAB 1992); In re Pollio Dairy Prods. Corp., 8 USPQ2d 2012, 2014-15 (TTAB 1988).

It is also inappropriate for the applicant in an ex parte proceeding to place the burden of showing a likelihood of confusion on the owner of the cited registration. In re Majestic Distilling Co., 315 F.3d 1311, 1318, 65 USPQ2d 1201, 1206 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (“'It is the duty of the PTO and this court to determine whether there is a likelihood of confusion between two marks. . . . [I]t is no answer for the applicant to ask that the application be passed to publication to see whether the owner of the cited mark will oppose the registration.'” (quoting Dixie Rests., 105 F.3d at 1408, 41 USPQ2d at 1535)).

1207.01(d)(v)   Classification of Goods/Services

The classification of goods and services has no bearing on the question of likelihood of confusion. See Jean Patou, Inc. v. Theon Inc., 9 F.3d 971, 975, 29 USPQ2d 1771, 1774 (Fed. Cir. 1993). Rather, it is the manner in which the applicant and/or registrant have identified their goods or services that is controlling. See Nat'l Football League v. Jasper Alliance Corp., 16 USPQ2d 1212, 1216 & n.5 (TTAB 1990).

1207.01(d)(vi)   Prior Decisions of Examining Attorneys

Each case must be decided on its own merits. E.g., In re Binion, 93 USPQ2d 1531, 1536 (TTAB 2009). Previous decisions by examining attorneys in approving other marks are without evidentiary value and are not binding on the agency or the Board. In re Davey Prods. Pty, 92 USPQ2d 1198, 1206 (TTAB 2009); In re Wilson, 57 USPQ2d 1863, 1871 (TTAB 2001); In re Sunmarks, Inc., 32 USPQ2d 1470, 1472 (TTAB 1994); In re Nat’l Novice Hockey League, Inc., 222 USPQ 638, 641 (TTAB 1984).

1207.01(d)(vii)   Sophisticated Purchasers

The fact that purchasers are sophisticated or knowledgeable in a particular field does not necessarily mean that they are immune to source confusion. See In re Shell Oil Co., 992 F.2d 1204, 1208, 26 USPQ2d 1687, 1690 (Fed. Cir. 1993) (indicating that “even sophisticated purchasers can be confused by very similar marks”); Top Tobacco, LP v. N. Atl. Operating Co., 101 USPQ2d 1163, 1170 (TTAB 2011); In re Total Quality Grp., Inc., 51 USPQ2d 1474, 1477 (TTAB 1999); In re Decombe, 9 USPQ2d 1812, 1814-15 (TTAB 1988); In re Pellerin Milnor Corp., 221 USPQ 558, 560 (TTAB 1983). However, circumstances suggesting care in purchasing may tend to minimize the likelihood of confusion. See, e.g., In re N.A.D., Inc., 754 F.2d 996, 999-1000, 224 USPQ 969, 971 (Fed. Cir. 1985) (concluding that, because only sophisticated purchasers exercising great care would purchase the relevant goods, there would be no likelihood of confusion merely because of the similarity between the marks NARCO and NARKOMED); In re Homeland Vinyl Prods., Inc., 81 USPQ2d 1378, 1380, 1383 (TTAB 2006).

1207.01(d)(viii)   Consent Agreements

The term “consent agreement” generally refers to an agreement between parties in which one party (e.g., a prior registrant) consents to the registration of a mark by the other party (e.g., an applicant for registration of the same mark or a similar mark), or in which each party consents to the registration of an identical or similar mark by the other party.

An applicant may submit a consent agreement in an attempt to overcome a refusal of registration under §2(d) of the Act, or in anticipation of a refusal to register. However, an examining attorney may not solicit a consent agreement.

A consent agreement may take a number of different forms and arise under a variety of circumstances, but, when present, it is “but one factor to be taken into account with all of the other relevant circumstances bearing on the likelihood of confusion referred to in §2(d).” In re N.A.D. Inc., 754 F.2d 996, 224 USPQ 969, 971 (Fed. Cir. 1985).

“Naked” consent agreements (i.e., agreements that contain little more than a prior registrant’s consent to registration of an applied-for mark and possibly a mere statement that source confusion is believed to be unlikely) are typically considered to be less persuasive than agreements that detail the particular reasons why the relevant parties believe no likelihood of confusion exists and specify the arrangements undertaken by the parties to avoid confusing the public. See In re E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 476 F.2d 1357, 1362, 177 USPQ 563, 568 (C.C.P.A 1973) (noting that “[i]n considering agreements, a naked ‘consent’ may carry little weight,” but “[t]he weight to be given more detailed agreements . . . should be substantial”); see also In re Donnay Int’l, S.A., 31 USPQ2d 1953, 1956 (TTAB 1994) (“[T]he more information that is in the consent agreement as to why the parties believe confusion to be unlikely, and the more evidentiary support for such conclusions in the facts of record or in the way of undertakings by the parties, the more we can assume that the consent is based on a reasoned assessment of the marketplace, and consequently the more weight the consent will be accorded.”); In re Permagrain Prods., Inc., 223 USPQ 147 (TTAB 1984) (finding a consent agreement submitted by applicant did not alter the conclusion that confusion was likely, because the agreement was “naked” in that it merely indicated that each party would recognize, and refrain from interfering with, the other’s use of their respective marks and that the applicant would not advertise or promote its mark without its company name, but the agreement did not restrict the markets or potential customers for their goods in such a way as to avoid confusion);cf. In re Wacker Neuson SE, 97 USPQ2d 1408 (TTAB 2010) (finding an otherwise “thin consent” to be viable and reversing a §2(d) refusal, in view of the relationship of the parties, the provisions of a licensing agreement executed by the parties, and the fact that the goods and services offered under both parties’ marks were manufactured and sold by applicant).

If a consent agreement makes representations about both parties’ beliefs regarding the likelihood of confusion and/or indicates that both parties have agreed to undertake certain actions to avoid confusion, then it should be signed by both parties, or by individuals with legal authority to bind the respective parties. In some instances, however, a consent document might be signed only by the registrant, because only the registrant has provided its consent, agreed to take certain actions, or made representations as to the likelihood of confusion. The absence of applicant’s signature on the document in such cases does not necessarily render the document unacceptable, but, like any other consent document, its persuasive value should be determined in light of all other evidence in the record. See, e.g., Donnay Int’l, 31 USPQ2d at 1956-57 (finding that a consent letter signed only by the registrant and consisting merely of registrant’s consent to applicant’s registration and use of the applied-for mark was entitled to limited weight, but nonetheless concluding that it served to “tip the scales” in favor of reversing the §2(d) refusal, especially in view of the minimal evidence supporting the conclusion that confusion was likely); In re Palm Beach Inc., 225 USPQ 785, 787-88 (TTAB 1985) (concluding there was no reasonable likelihood of confusion as to applicant’s and registrant’s marks, based on, inter alia, the different nature of the parties’ goods, two consent letters signed only by owners of the cited registration, and an affidavit of an officer of applicant’s subsidiary indicating that actual confusion had not occurred during the more than 45 years of the marks’ coexistence and that future likelihood of confusion was believed to be unlikely).

In the In re E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. decision, the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals stated as follows:

[W]hen those most familiar with use in the marketplace and most interested in precluding confusion enter agreements designed to avoid it, the scales of evidence are clearly tilted. It is at least difficult to maintain a subjective view that confusion will occur when those directly concerned say it won’t. A mere assumption that confusion is likely will rarely prevail against uncontroverted evidence from those on the firing line that it is not.

476 F.2d at 1363, 177 USPQ at 568.

Accordingly, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has indicated that consent agreements should be given great weight, and that the USPTO should not substitute its judgment concerning likelihood of confusion for the judgment of the real parties in interest without good reason, that is, unless the other relevant factors clearly dictate a finding of likelihood of confusion. See In re Four Seasons Hotels Ltd., 987 F.2d 1565, 26 USPQ2d 1071 (Fed. Cir. 1993); In re N.A.D. Inc., 754 F.2d 996, 224 USPQ 969 (Fed. Cir. 1985); see also du Pont, 476 F.2d at 1362-63, 177 USPQ at 568; cf. In re Mastic Inc., 829 F.2d 1114, 4 USPQ2d 1292 (Fed. Cir. 1987) (affirming TTAB’s holding that applicant’s mark was barred by §2(d), because the provided consent to register was essentially a “naked” consent and all other relevant factors weighed in favor of a conclusion that confusion was likely).

Thus, examining attorneys should give substantial weight to a proper consent agreement. When an applicant and registrant have entered into a credible consent agreement and, on balance, the other factors do not dictate a finding of likelihood of confusion, an examining attorney should not interpose his or her own judgment that confusion is likely.

A consent agreement is not the same as a “concurrent use” agreement. The term “concurrent use” is a term of art that refers to a geographical restriction on the registration. See TMEP §1207.04 regarding concurrent use.

1207.01(d)(ix)   Fame of the Prior Registered Mark

According to In re E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., the “fame of the prior mark” is a factor to be considered in determining likelihood of confusion. 476 F.2d 1357, 1361, 177 USPQ 563, 567 (C.C.P.A. 1973). Because, in ex parte proceedings, the examining attorney is not expected to submit evidence regarding the fame of the cited mark, this factor is usually treated as neutral in such proceedings. However, this factor is usually considered more significant in inter partes proceedings. See Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC v. Fed. Corp., 673 F.3d 1330, 102 USPQ2d 1061 (Fed. Cir. 2012); Recot, Inc. v. M.C. Becton, 214 F.3d 1322, 54 USPQ2d 1894 (Fed. Cir. 2000); Research in Motion Ltd. v. Defining Presence Mktg. Grp., Inc., 102 USPQ2d 1187, 1192-93 (TTAB 2012); In re Thomas, 79 USPQ2d 1021, 1027 n.11 (TTAB 2006).

Famous marks are afforded a broad scope of legal protection because they are more likely to be remembered and associated in the public mind than a weaker mark. Palm Bay Imps., Inc. v. Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Maison Fondee en 1772, 396 F.3d 1369, 1374, 73 USPQ2d 1689, 1694 (Fed. Cir. 2005); Bose Corp. v. QSC Audio Prods. Inc., 293 F.3d 1367, 1371-76, 63 USPQ2d 1303, 1305-09 (Fed. Cir. 2002) (finding opposer’s marks, ACOUSTIC WAVE and WAVE, to be famous and thus entitled to broad protection); Recot, 214 F.3d at 1327, 54 USPQ2d at 1897 (finding Board erred in limiting the weight accorded to the fame of opposer’s FRITO-LAY mark); Kenner Parker Toys Inc. v. Rose Art Indus., Inc., 963 F.2d 350, 353, 22 USPQ2d 1453, 1456 (Fed. Cir. 1992) (finding Board erred in discounting the significance of the fame of opposer’s mark PLAY-DOH); UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Mattel, Inc., 100 USPQ2d 1868, 1883 (TTAB 2011) (finding MOTOWN very famous in connection with musical recordings and musical entertainment, and noting that “a famous mark such as Motown can be expected to cast a long shadow and to be used in connection with numerous collateral goods”).

When present, the fame of a mark is “a dominant factor in the likelihood of confusion analysis . . . independent of the consideration of the relatedness of the goods.” Recot , 214 F.3d at 1328, 54 USPQ2d at 1898; L’Oreal S.A. v. Marcon, 102 USPQ2d 1434, 1438 (TTAB 2012) (noting that “a finding that a mark enjoys significant fame expands the scope of protection which might be accorded a lesser-known mark” and that “the fame of a registered or previously used mark can never support a junior party”); Starbucks U.S. Brands, LLC v. Ruben, 78 USPQ2d 1741, 1750 (TTAB 2006) (“As the fame of a mark increases, the degree of similarity between the marks necessary to support a conclusion of likely confusion declines.”); see also Nike, Inc. v. Maher, 100 USPQ2d 1018, 1023 (TTAB 2011) (finding applicant’s mark JUST JESU IT, and opposer’s mark JUST DO IT similar for likelihood of confusion purposes “despite the potential differences in meaning, given the fame of opposer’s mark and the similarity of appearance, pronunciation and overall commercial impressions”).

However, like the other du Pont factors, the fame of a mark may be considered only if there is relevant evidence of record. See TMEP §1207.01 . Thus, a party who asserts that its mark is famous must submit evidence clearly establishing that its mark is viewed by relevant purchasers as a famous mark. See, e.g., In re Hard Rock Cafe Licensing Corp. v. Elsea, 48 USPQ2d 1400, 1409 (TTAB 1998). The fame of a mark may be shown by evidence of, inter alia, the quantity of sales of products bearing the mark, the amount of advertising expenditures relating to the mark, and the length of time such indications of commercial awareness have been evident. See Bose, 293 F.3d at 1371, 63 USPQ2d at 1305-06.

Because of the nature of the evidence required to establish the fame of a registered mark, the Board normally does not expect the examining attorney to submit evidence as to the fame of the cited mark in an ex parte proceeding. See In re Thomas, 79 USPQ2d 1021, 1027 n.11 (TTAB 2006). And, in an ex parte analysis of the du Pont factors for determining likelihood of confusion (see TMEP §1207.01), the “fame of the mark” factor is normally treated as neutral when no evidence as to fame has been provided. See id.; see also In re Davey Prods. Pty Ltd., 92 USPQ2d 1198, 1204 (TTAB 2009) (noting that the absence of evidence as to the fame of the registered mark “is not particularly significant in the context of an ex parte proceeding”).

1207.01(d)(x)   Conflicting Marks Owned by Different Parties

During the examination of an application, the examining attorney should consider separately each registration found in a search of the marks registered in the USPTO that may bar registration of the applicant’s mark under §2(d). If the examining attorney finds registrations that appear to be owned by more than one registrant, he or she should consider the extent to which dilution may indicate that there is no likelihood of confusion. However, the examining attorney must cite all the marks that are considered to be a bar to registration of the mark presented in the application, even if they are owned by different parties. The examining attorney should always explain the reason that the mark in each cited registration is grounds for refusal under §2(d).

1207.01(d)(xi)   Family of Marks

A family of marks is defined as “a group of marks having a recognizable common characteristic, wherein the marks are composed and used in such a way that the public associates not only the individual marks, but the common characteristic of the family, with the trademark owner.” J & J Snack Foods Corp. v. McDonald’s Corp., 932 F.2d 1460, 1462, 18 USPQ2d 1889, 1891 (Fed. Cir. 1991). The common element may be a term, a phrase, or a component in the nature of a prefix or suffix.

The family of marks doctrine may be invoked by a plaintiff in inter partes proceedings relating to likelihood of confusion, but is not available to a defendant as a defense against an opposer’s or applicant’s intervening rights. Baroid Drilling Fluids Inc. v. Sun Drilling Prods., 24 USPQ2d 1048 (TTAB), amended by 1992 TTAB LEXIS 27 (TTAB 1992).

Moreover, a family of marks argument is not available to an applicant seeking to overcome a likelihood of confusion refusal in an ex parte proceeding; instead, the focus of the likelihood of confusion analysis must be on the mark applicant seeks to register, not other marks applicant may have used or registered. In re Cynosure, Inc., 90 USPQ2d 1644, 1645 (TTAB 2009); see also In re Ald, Inc., 148 USPQ 520, 521 (TTAB 1965) (“[I]n view of the specific prohibition of Section 2(d) . . ., the fact that applicant may possess a ‘family’ of marks characterized by the term ‘ALD’ is of no particular significance herein if the mark for which applicant now seeks registration . . . is confusingly similar to the previously registered mark . . . .”).

It has also been noted that, in ex parte proceedings, examining attorneys do not have access to the evidence and information needed to establish whether a family of marks exists. In re Mobay Chem. Co., 166 USPQ 218, 219 (TTAB 1970). Therefore, examining attorneys should refrain from invoking the family of marks doctrine or from referring to a family of marks in a likelihood of confusion analysis. See id.

1207.01(d)(xii)   Pharmaceuticals or Medicinal Products

When determining if a likelihood of confusion exists between marks used in connection with pharmaceuticals or medicinal products for human use, greater care must be taken to avoid confusion because mistakes in the selection and use of these goods may result in serious and harmful consequences. See Clifton v. Plough, Inc., 341 F.2d 934, 934, 144 USPQ 599, 600 (C.C.P.A. 1965); Schering Corp. v. Alza Corp., 207 USPQ 504, 509 (TTAB 1980); Am. Home Prods. Corp. v. USV Pharm. Corp., 190 USPQ 357, 359-60 (TTAB 1976). Thus, in cases where confusion involving pharmaceuticals or medicinal products could result in harm or other serious consequences to consumers, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board and its primary reviewing court have considered this an additional relevant factor and applied a stricter standard that may require a lesser degree of proof to establish likelihood of confusion. See Glenwood Labs., Inc. v. Am. Home Prods. Corp., 455 F.2d 1384, 1386-87, 173 USPQ 19, 21-22 (C.C.P.A. 1972); Schering Corp., 207 USPQ at 509; Ethicon, Inc. v. Am. Cyanamid Co., 192 USPQ 647, 651-52 (TTAB 1976).

1207.02   Marks That Are Likely to Deceive

In addition to referring to a mark that so resembles another mark as to be likely to cause confusion or mistake, §2(d) refers to a mark being likely “to deceive.” As a practical matter, this provision is rarely applied in examination, because deceptiveness involves intent and would be difficult to prove in an ex parte proceeding.

1207.03   Marks Previously Used in United States but Not Registered

As a basis for refusal, §2(d) refers not only to registered marks but also to “a mark or trade name previously used in the United States by another and not abandoned.” Refusal on the basis of an unregistered mark or trade name has sometimes been referred to as refusal on the basis of a “known mark.” This provision is not applied in ex parte examination because of the practical difficulties with which an examining attorney is faced in locating “previously used” marks, and determining whether anyone has rights in them and whether they are “not abandoned.”

1207.04   Concurrent Use Registration

1207.04(a)   Concurrent Use – In General

Section 2(d) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(d), contains a proviso under which an eligible applicant may request issuance of a registration based on rights acquired by concurrent use of its mark, either with the owner of a registration or application for a conflicting mark or with a common-law user of a conflicting mark.

In a concurrent use application, the applicant normally requests a geographically restricted registration. See TBMP §§1101.01 and 1103.01(d)(2). The applicant seeks registration for a specified geographical area of the United States and lists one or more parties who concededly have rights in the mark in other geographical areas of the United States. See 15 U.S.C. §1051(a)(3)(D); 37 C.F.R. §2.42; TBMP §§1102.01 and 1103.01. These other parties may own applications or registrations, or they may have common law rights in a mark, but no application or registration. TBMP §1104.

There are two bases upon which a concurrent use registration may be issued: (1) a determination by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, in either a prior or to-be-instituted concurrent use proceeding, that the applicant is entitled to a concurrent registration; or (2) a final determination by a court of competent jurisdiction of the concurrent rights of the relevant parties to use the same or similar marks in commerce. See 15 U.S.C. §1052(d); 37 C.F.R. §2.99; TBMP §1102.02.

“Incontestable” registrations (i.e., where the registrant’s right to use the mark has become incontestable pursuant to 15 U.S.C. §1065) are subject to concurrent use registration proceedings. TBMP §1105; see Holiday Inn v. Holiday Inns, Inc., 534 F.2d 312, 319-20, 189 USPQ 630, 636 (C.C.P.A. 1976); Thriftimart, Inc. v. Scot Lad Foods, Inc., 207 USPQ 330, 334 (TTAB 1980).

Registrations and applications to register on the Supplemental Register and registrations under the Act of 1920 (see TMEP §1601.05) are not subject to concurrent use registration proceedings. 37 C.F.R. §2.99(g); TBMP §1105.

Concurrent use registration is requested by the applicant; it should not be suggested or initiated by the examining attorney.

1207.04(b)   Filing Basis of Application Seeking Concurrent Use Registration

In an application based on use in commerce under 15 U.S.C. §1051(a), the applicant may seek concurrent use registration at the time the application is filed or in a subsequent amendment. See 37 C.F.R. §§2.42 and 2.73.

In an application based on a bona fide intent to use the mark in commerce under 15 U.S.C. §1051(b), the applicant may not amend to seek concurrent use registration until the applicant files an acceptable allegation of use. 37 C.F.R. §§2.73 and 2.99(g).

Applications based solely on §44 or §66(a) of the Trademark Act are not subject to concurrent use registration proceedings. 37 C.F.R. §2.99(g).

1207.04(c)   Criteria for Requesting Concurrent Use Registration

An applicant is eligible to request a registration subject to concurrent use if it meets one or more of the following criteria:

  • (1) The concurrent use request is sought pursuant to a decree of a court of competent jurisdiction (or a decision by the Board in a prior concurrent use proceeding) reflecting a final determination of the rights of the concurrent user;
  • (2) The owner of the registration consents to the grant of a concurrent use registration to the applicant; or
  • (3) The applicant’s date of first use in commerce is before the filing date of the pending applications or of any registrations issued under the Trademark Act of 1946. When a party specified as an excepted user does not own an application or registration, the applicant’s date of first use in commerce is before the filing date of any application to register the mark that may be filed by the excepted user.

15 U.S.C. §1052(d); 37 C.F.R. §2.99(e). The applicant has the burden of proving that it is entitled to a concurrent use registration. 37 C.F.R. §2.99(e).

1207.04(d)   Requirements for All Concurrent Use Applications

An application for registration as a lawful concurrent user is generally examined in the same manner as any other application for registration. 37 C.F.R. §2.99(a). The examining attorney must examine the application to determine whether it complies with the relevant requirements for a non-restricted application. Additionally, the applicant must comply with the following requirements in a concurrent use application:

  • (1) The applicant must specify the goods and the geographic area for which the applicant seeks registration of the mark. 15 U.S.C. §1051(a)(3)(D); 37 C.F.R. §2.42. The applicant must also set forth the mode of use. 37 C.F.R. §2.42.
  • (2) The applicant must specify, to the extent of its knowledge, the exceptions to its claim of exclusive use, listing any concurrent use by others and the relevant goods, geographic areas, and periods of this use. 15 U.S.C. §1051(a)(3)(D); 37 C.F.R. §2.42.
  • (3) The applicant must also list the names and addresses of the concurrent users, the registrations issued to or applications filed by them (if any), and the mode of such use. 37 C.F.R. §2.42.
  • (4) The verification for a concurrent use application should be modified to indicate an exception, that no one else except as specified in the application has the right to use the mark. See 15 U.S.C. §1051(a)(3)(D); TMEP §804.02.

The applicant does not have to insert the stated exceptions in the verification or declaration; the exceptions may be set forth anywhere in the application.

In addition to the requirements noted above, which apply to all applications for concurrent use registration, concurrent use applications must meet other conditions, depending on whether the application is subject to a concurrent use proceeding before the Board (see TMEP §§1207.04(e)-(e)(i) ), pursuant to the decree of a court (see TMEP §§1207.04(f)-(f)(i) ), or based on a final decision by the Board in a prior concurrent use proceeding (see TMEP §§1207.04(g)-(g)(i)).

1207.04(e)   Applications Subject to Concurrent Use Proceeding Before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board

Ordinarily, the examining attorney should not require an applicant for concurrent use registration to submit evidence in support of its claim to concurrent rights. However, the examining attorney should refuse registration under §2(d) if the applicant has requested a concurrent use registration and information in the record suggests that the applicant has not met the basic requirements for concurrent use registration (e.g., if the application indicates that the applicant adopted and used the mark with knowledge of the superior rights of a person specified as an excepted user, or that actual confusion has resulted from the concurrent use of the marks of the parties in their respective geographic areas). See Gray v. Daffy Dan’s Bargaintown, 823 F.2d 522, 526-27, 3 USPQ2d 1306, 1308-09 (Fed. Cir. 1987); In re Place for Vision, Inc., 196 USPQ 267, 269-70 (TTAB 1977).

If an application that seeks registration through a concurrent use proceeding before the Board complies with the relevant requirements and it appears that the applicant is otherwise entitled to registration but for the question of concurrent rights, the examining attorney will approve the application for publication subject to a concurrent use proceeding. See 15 U.S.C. §1062(a). The examining attorney must not issue a refusal under §2(d) as to any registration named by the applicant as an exception to its exclusive rights.

If, in response to a refusal under §2(d) or an advisory regarding an earlier-filed application, an application is amended to seek registration through a concurrent use proceeding and complies with the relevant requirements, and it appears that the applicant is otherwise entitled to registration but for the question of concurrent rights, the examining attorney will withdraw the previously issued refusal or advisory as to any registration or application named by the applicant as an exception to its exclusive rights and will approve the application for publication subject to a concurrent use proceeding.

1207.04(e)(i)   Preparing the Record for Publication

When the examining attorney determines that the mark in an application that is subject to a concurrent use proceeding is ready for publication, the examining attorney should prepare the record as follows. The application must contain a concurrent use statement that will be printed in the Official Gazette. The statement may be submitted by the applicant or prepared by the examining attorney. The statement must be in the following form:

Subject to Concurrent Use Proceeding with ____________ [specifying the application serial number(s) or registration number(s), if any, of each other party; otherwise, the name and address of each other party].

Applicant claims the exclusive right to use the mark in the area comprising _____________ [specifying the area for which the applicant seeks registration].

After publication, if no opposition is filed, or if any opposition that is filed is dismissed or withdrawn, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board will institute the concurrent use proceeding. See 37 C.F.R. §2.99; TMEP §1506. The Board will consider and determine concurrent use rights only in the context of a concurrent use registration proceeding. 37 C.F.R. §2.99(h).

See TBMP Chapter 1100.

1207.04(f)    Application for Concurrent Use Registration Pursuant to Court Decree

The USPTO may issue a concurrent use registration pursuant to the final determination of a court of competent jurisdiction that more than one person is entitled to use the same or similar marks in commerce. 15 U.S.C. §1052(d)(3). An applicant who seeks a concurrent use registration on the basis of a court determination does not have to be a prior user or obtain the consent of the owner of the involved mark. See Holiday Inn v. Holiday Inns, Inc., 534 F.2d 312, 317-18, 189 USPQ 630, 633-34 (C.C.P.A. 1976); cf. Alfred Dunhill of London, Inc. v. Dunhill Tailored Clothes, Inc., 293 F.2d 685, 690-94, 130 USPQ 412, 417-20 (C.C.P.A. 1961); TBMP §1103.03.

When examining an application for concurrent use registration pursuant to the decree of a court, the examining attorney must determine whether the application complies with the specific requirements for concurrent use applications (see TMEP §§1207.04(d)) and the requirements that would apply to an unrestricted application.

In addition, under 37 C.F.R. §2.99(f), all of the following conditions must be met, or a concurrent use proceeding before the Board must be prepared and instituted:

  • (1) The applicant is entitled to registration subject only to the concurrent lawful use of a party to the court proceeding;
  • (2) The court decree specifies the rights of the parties;
  • (3) A true copy of the court decree is submitted to the examining attorney;
  • (4) The concurrent use application complies fully and exactly with the court decree; and
  • (5) The excepted use specified in the concurrent use application does not involve a registration, or any involved registration has been restricted by the Director in accordance with the court decree.

If any of the conditions listed above are not satisfied, the examining attorney will approve the application for publication subject to a concurrent use registration proceeding before the Board (see TMEP §§1207.04(e) and (e)(i)), rather than pursuant to the court decree. 37 C.F.R. §2.99(f).

1207.04(f)(i)    Preparing the Record for Publication

If the application complies with all the conditions listed in TMEP §1207.04(f) and all other relevant requirements, and is otherwise entitled to registration, the examining attorney will approve the application for publication of the mark. The examining attorney should prepare the record as follows:

The application must contain a concurrent use statement to be printed in the Official Gazette. The statement may be submitted by the applicant or prepared by the examining attorney. The statement will delineate the concurrent rights of the parties as determined by the court, in the following form:

Registration limited to the area comprising __________ [specifying the area granted to the applicant by the court and any other restriction designated by the court] pursuant to the decree of ______________ [specifying the name of the court, proceeding number and date of the decree].

Concurrent registration with ________________ [specifying the application serial number(s) or registration number(s), if any, of each other party; otherwise, the name and address of each other party].

After publication, if no opposition is filed, or if any opposition that is filed is dismissed or withdrawn, the application will mature into a registration.

1207.04(g)    Application for Concurrent Use Registration Based on Final Board Decision in Prior Concurrent Use Proceeding

A concurrent use registration may also be based on a final determination by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, in a prior concurrent use proceeding, that applicant is entitled to a concurrent use registration of its mark. TBMP §1103.02.

When examining an application for a concurrent use registration based on a final Board decision in a prior concurrent use proceeding, the examining attorney must determine whether the application complies with the specific requirements for concurrent use applications (see TMEP §1207.04(d)) and all other requirements that would apply to an unrestricted application.

In addition, all of the following conditions must be met:

  • (1) The applicant is entitled to registration subject only to the concurrent lawful use of a party or parties to the prior concurrent use proceeding;
  • (2) The Board’s prior decision specifies applicant’s right to concurrent use registration;
  • (3) A copy of the Board’s prior decision is submitted to the examining attorney;
  • (4) The concurrent use application complies with the Board’s prior decision, in that it seeks registration for the same, or a more limited, geographic area or mode of use than granted to the applicant in the prior decision; seeks registration for substantially the same mark or one less confusingly similar to those of the other party or parties in the prior proceeding; and seeks registration for substantially the same goods and/or services as, or more limited goods and/or services than those listed in the Board’s prior specification of the applicant’s entitlement to concurrent registration; and
  • (5) The excepted use specified in the concurrent use application does not involve a registration, or any involved registration has been restricted by the Director in accordance with the Board’s prior decision.

If the conditions listed above are satisfied, the examining attorney must ensure that the appropriate concurrent use statement for registration based on a final determination by the Board in a prior concurrent use proceeding is entered in the database and approve the application for publication (see TMEP §§1207.04(e) and (g)(i)).

If any of the conditions listed above are not satisfied, the examining attorney must ensure that the appropriate concurrent use statement for registration subject to a concurrent use registration proceeding before the Board is entered in the database and approve the application for publication (see TMEP §§1207.04(e) and (e)(i)). TBMP §1103.02.

1207.04(g)(i)   Preparing the Record for Publication

If the application satisfies all the conditions listed in TMEP §1207.04(g), complies with all other relevant requirements, and is otherwise entitled to registration, the examining attorney will approve the application for publication of the mark. The application must contain a concurrent use statement to be printed in the Official Gazette. The statement may be submitted by the applicant or prepared by the examining attorney. The statement will delineate the concurrent rights of the parties as determined by the Board, in the following form:

Registration limited to the area comprising __________ [indicating the area specified in the Board’s prior decision as the area for which applicant is entitled to registration and any other restriction designated by the Board] pursuant to Concurrent Use Proceeding No. ______________ [specifying the number of the prior concurrent use proceeding].

Concurrent registration with ________________ [specifying the application serial number(s) or registration number(s), if any, of each other party involved in the prior concurrent use proceeding; otherwise, the name and address of each other party].

After publication, if no opposition is filed, or if any opposition that is filed is dismissed or withdrawn, the application will mature into a registration.