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T.M.E.P. § 1203.02
Deceptive Matter

Executive summary:

This document contains one section of the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (the "TMEP"), Fourth Edition (April 2005). This page was last updated in June 2007. You may return to one either the section index, or to the key word index. If you wish to search the TMEP, simply use the search box that appears on the bottom of every page of BitLaw--be sure to restrict your search to the TMEP in the pop-up list.

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1203.02 Deceptive Matter

Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. 1052(a), is an absolute bar to the registration of deceptive matter on either the Principal Register or the Supplemental Register. Neither a disclaimer of the deceptive matter nor a claim that it has acquired distinctiveness under §2(f) can obviate a refusal under §2(a) on the ground that the mark consists of or comprises deceptive matter. See American Speech-Language-Hearing Association v. National Hearing Aid Society, 224 USPQ 798, 808 (TTAB 1984); In re Charles S. Loeb Pipes, Inc., 190 USPQ 238, 241 (TTAB 1975).

Deceptive marks may include marks that falsely describe the material content of a product (see In re Intex Plastics Corp., 215 USPQ 1045 (TTAB 1982)) and marks that are geographically deceptive (see Stabilisierungsfonds fur Wein v. Peter Meyer Winery GmbH, 9 USPQ2d 1073 (TTAB 1988); In re House of Windsor, Inc., 221 USPQ 53 (TTAB 1983), recon. denied, 223 USPQ 191 (TTAB 1984)). See TMEP §1210.05 et seq. regarding geographically deceptive marks.

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has articulated the following test for whether a mark consists of or comprises deceptive matter:

(1) Is the term misdescriptive of the character, quality, function, composition or use of the goods?
(2) If so, are prospective purchasers likely to believe that the misdescription actually describes the goods?
(3) If so, is the misdescription likely to affect the decision to purchase?

In re Budge Mfg. Co. Inc., 857 F.2d 773, 775, 8 USPQ2d 1259, 1260 (Fed. Cir. 1988), aff'g 8 USPQ2d 1790 (TTAB 1987).

The fact that only those knowledgeable in the relevant trade, andnot average purchasers, would be deceived does not preclude a finding that a mark comprises deceptive matter. In re House of Windsor, Inc., 223 USPQ 191, 192 (TTAB 1984).

1203.02(a) Distinction between Marks Comprising Deceptive Matter (§2(a)) and Deceptively Misdescriptive Marks (§2(e)(1))

If the first two inquiries set forth by the Federal Circuit in In re Budge Mfg. Co. Inc., 857 F.2d 773, 775, 8 USPQ2d 1259, 1260 (Fed. Cir. 1988) (i.e., whether a mark is misdescriptive of the goods or services and whether prospective purchasers are likely to believe the misdescription), are answered affirmatively, the mark is deceptively misdescriptive of the goods/services under §2(e)(1).

The third inquiry, whether the misdescription is likely to affect the decision to purchase, distinguishes marks that are deceptive under §2(a) from marks that are deceptively misdescriptive under §2(e)(1).

To establish that a misdescription would be likely to affect the decision to purchase, the examining attorney should provide evidence that the misdescriptive quality or characteristic would make the product or service more appealing or desirable to prospective purchasers. In re Juleigh Jeans Sportswear Inc., 24 USPQ2d 1694 (TTAB 1992).

The examining attorney is to refuse registration of a mark of this type under both §2(a) and §2(e)(1), where it is difficult to determine whether misdescriptive matter would materially affect a decision to purchase. See, e.g., Gold Seal Co. v. Weeks, 129 F. Supp. 928, 105 USPQ 407 (D.D.C. 1955), aff'd sub nom. S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc. v. Gold Seal Co., 230 F.2d 832, 108 USPQ 400 (D.C. Cir. 1956) (per curiam), cert. denied, 352 U.S. 829, 111 USPQ 467 (1956). See also R. Neumann & Co. v. Overseas Shipments, Inc., 326 F.2d 786, 140 USPQ 276 (C.C.P.A. 1964), and Stabilisierungsfonds fur Wein v. Peter Meyer Winery GmbH, 9 USPQ2d 1073 (TTAB 1988), in which third parties filed oppositions based on both statutory sections.

Marks that are deceptive under §2(a) are unregistrable on either the Principal Register or the Supplemental Register, whereas marks that are deceptively misdescriptive under §2(e)(1) may be registrable on the Principal Register with a showing of acquired distinctiveness under §2(f), 15 U.S.C. 1052(f), or on the Supplemental Register.

See TMEP §1210.05(a) regarding the distinction between marks comprising deceptive matter under §2(a) and matter that is primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive under §2(e)(3).

1203.02(b) Deceptive Matter: Case References

In the following cases, proposed marks were determined to be deceptive, under §2(a): In re Budge Mfg. Co. Inc., 857 F.2d 773, 8 USPQ2d 1259 (Fed. Cir. 1988), aff'g 8 USPQ2d 1790 (TTAB 1987) (LOVEE LAMB held deceptive for seat covers not made of lambskin); In re Phillips-Van Heusen Corp., 63 USPQ2d 1047 (TTAB 2002) (SUPER SILK held deceptive for "clothing, namely dress shirts and sport shirts made of silk-like fabric"); In re Organik Technologies, Inc., 41 USPQ2d 1690 (TTAB 1997) (ORGANIK deceptive for clothing and textiles made from cotton that is neither from an organically grown plant nor free of chemical processing or treatment, notwithstanding applicant's assertions that the goods are manufactured by a process that avoids the use of chemical bleaches, because the identification of goods was broad enough to include textiles and clothing manufactured with chemical processes or dyes); In re Juleigh Jeans Sportswear Inc., 24 USPQ2d 1694 (TTAB 1992) (LONDON LONDON held deceptive for clothing having no connection with London); In re Perry Mfg. Co., 12 USPQ2d 1751 (TTAB 1989) (PERRY NEW YORK and design of New York City skyline held deceptive for clothing originating in North Carolina, in view of the renown of New York City in the apparel industry); Stabilisierungsfonds fur Wein v. Peter Meyer Winery GmbH, 9 USPQ2d 1073, 1075 (TTAB 1988) (GOLDENER TROPFEN held deceptive for wines, in view of evidence of the international renown of the Goldtropfchen vineyard of West Germany, the Board finding that the purchasing public would be likely to think, mistakenly, that applicant's wines were produced from grapes grown there in accordance with German wine laws and regulations); Bureau National Interprofessionnel Du Cognac v. International Better Drinks Corp., 6 USPQ2d 1610 (TTAB 1988) (COLAGNAC held deceptive for cola-flavored liqueur containing Spanish brandy, the Board concluding that purchasers were likely to believe that applicant's goods contained COGNAC brandy); In re Shapely, Inc., 231 USPQ 72 (TTAB 1986) (SILKEASE held deceptive as applied to clothing not made of silk); In re House of Windsor, Inc., 221 USPQ 53 (TTAB 1983), recon. denied, 223 USPQ 191 (TTAB 1984) (BAHIA held deceptive as applied to cigars having no connection with the Bahia province of Brazil, the record indicating that tobacco and cigars are important products in the Bahia region); Evans Products Co. v. Boise Cascade Corp., 218 USPQ 160 (TTAB 1983) (CEDAR RIDGE held deceptive for embossed hardboard siding not made of cedar); In re Intex Plastics Corp., 215 USPQ 1045 (TTAB 1982) (TEXHYDE held deceptive as applied to synthetic fabric for use in the manufacture of furniture, upholstery, luggage and the like); Tanners' Council of America, Inc. v. Samsonite Corp., 204 USPQ 150 (TTAB 1979) (SOFTHIDE held deceptive for imitation leather material); In re Salem China Co., 157 USPQ 600 (TTAB 1968) (AMERICAN LIMOGES, used on dinnerware that was neither made in Limoges, France, nor made from Limoges clay, held deceptive because of the association of Limoges with fine quality china); Company of Cutlers of Hallamshire in the County of York v. Regent-Sheffield, Ltd., 155 USPQ 597 (TTAB 1967) (SHEFFIELD, used on cutlery not made in Sheffield, England, held deceptive because of the renowned status of Sheffield in relation to cutlery); In re U.S. Plywood Corp., 138 USPQ 403 (TTAB 1963) (IVORY WOOD, for lumber and timber products, held deceptive since the goods were not made of ivorywood nor did they contain an ivorywood pattern).

Marks were found not to be deceptive in the following cases: Philip Morris Inc. v. Reemtsma Cigarettenfabriken GmbH, 14 USPQ2d 1487 (TTAB 1990) (PARK AVENUE held neither deceptive nor geographically deceptively misdescriptive as applied to applicant's cigarettes and smoking tobacco, the Board finding no goods/place association between Park Avenue in New York City, on which opposer's world headquarters was located, and tobacco products); In re Fortune Star Products Corp., 217 USPQ 277 (TTAB 1982) (NIPPON, for radios, televisions and the like, found not deceptive in relation to the goods because, although the applicant was an American firm, the goods were actually made in Japan); In re Sweden Freezer Mfg. Co., 159 USPQ 246, 249 (TTAB 1968) (SWEDEN and design, for which registration was sought under §2(f) for external artificial kidney units, held not deceptive, the Board finding the case to be in the category "where a geographical trademark may involve a degree of untruth but the deception may be perfectly innocent, harmless or negligible"); A. F. Gallun & Sons Corp. v. Aristocrat Leather Products, Inc., 135 USPQ 459 (TTAB 1962) (COPY CALF, for wallets and billfolds of synthetic and plastic material made to simulate leather, found not deceptive, the Board noting that the mark, as an obvious play on the expression "copy cat," suggested to purchasers that the goods were imitations of items made of calf skin).