1202.06 Goods in Trade
Section 45 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1127, defines a “trademark” as a “word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof” that is used or intended to be used in commerce “to identify and distinguish his or her goods (emphasis added).” Before rights in a term as a trademark can be established, the subject matter to which the term is applied must be “goods in trade.” Incidental items that an applicant uses in conducting its business (such as letterhead, invoices, reports, boxes, and business forms), as opposed to items sold or transported in commerce for use by others, are not “goods in trade.” See In re Shareholders Data Corp., 495 F.2d 1360, 181 USPQ 722 (C.C.P.A. 1974) (finding that reports are not goods in trade, where applicant is not engaged in the sale of reports, but solely in furnishing financial reporting services, and reports are merely conduit through which services are rendered); In re Thomas White Int’l, Ltd., 106 USPQ2d 1158, 1162-63 (TTAB 2013) (finding that applicant’s annual report does not constitute a “good in trade,” but rather “is a common and necessary adjunct to the rendering of applicant's investment management and research services, that is, it is one of the means through which it provides investment services”); In re Ameritox Ltd., 101 USPQ2d 1081, 1085 (TTAB 2011) (finding no evidence that applicant was engaged in selling printed reports apart from its laboratory testing services and that the reports were part and parcel of the services); In re MGA Entm’t, Inc., 84 USPQ2d 1743 (TTAB 2007) (stating that applicant’s trapezoidal cardboard boxes for toys, games, and playthings held to be merely point of sale containers for applicant’s primary goods and not separate goods in trade, where there was no evidence that applicant is a manufacturer of boxes or that applicant is engaged in selling boxes as commodities in trade); In re Compute-Her-Look, Inc., 176 USPQ 445 (TTAB 1972) (finding that reports and printouts not goods in trade, where they are merely the means by which the results of a beauty analysis service is transmitted and have no viable existence separate and apart from the service); Ex parte Bank of Am. Nat’l Trust and Sav. Ass’n, 118 USPQ 165 (Comm’r Pats. 1958) (mark not registrable for passbooks, checks, and other printed forms, where forms are used only as "necessary 'tools' in the performance of [banking services], and [applicant] is not engaged either in printing or selling forms as commodities in trade.").
The determination of whether an applicant's identified goods comprise independent goods in trade, or are merely incidental to the applicant's services, is a factual determination to be made on a case-by-case basis. In re Thomas White Int’l, Ltd. 106 USPQ2d at 1161 (citing Lens.com, Inc. v. 1-800 Contacts, Inc., 686 F.3d 1376, 1381-82, 103 USPQ2d 1672, 1676 (Fed. Cir. 2012)). Factors to consider include “whether [applicant's good]: (1) is simply the conduit or necessary tool useful only to obtain applicant’s services; (2) is so inextricably tied to and associated with the service as to have no viable existence apart therefrom; and (3) is neither sold separately from nor has any independent value apart from the services.” In re Thomas White Int’l, Ltd., 106 USPQ2d at 1162 (citing Lens.com, Inc. v. 1-800 Contacts, Inc., 686 F.3d at 1382, 103 USPQ2d at 1676). None of these factors is dispositive. Lens.com, Inc. v. 1-800 Contacts, Inc., 686 F.3d at 1382, 103 USPQ2d at 1676.