TMEP 1202.13: Scent, Fragrance, or Flavor

This is the October 2015 Edition of the TMEP

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1202.13    Scent, Fragrance, or Flavor

Scent. The scent of a product may be registrable if it is used in a nonfunctional manner. See In re Clarke, 17 USPQ2d 1238, 1239-40 (TTAB 1990) (holding that the scent of plumeria blossoms functioned as a mark for “sewing thread and embroidery yarn"). Scents that serve a utilitarian purpose, such as the scent of perfume or an air freshener, are functional and not registrable. See TMEP §§1202.02(a)-1202.02(a)(viii) regarding functionality. When a scent is not functional, it may be registered on the Principal Register under §2(f), or on the Supplemental Register if appropriate. The amount of evidence required to establish that a scent or fragrance functions as a mark is substantial. See In re Pohl-Boskamp GmbH & Co., 106 USPQ2d 1042, 1052 (TTAB 2013) (finding that peppermint scent mark for “pharmaceutical formulations of nitroglycerin” failed to function as a mark and noting the insufficiency of applicant’s evidence of acquired distinctiveness in light of evidence that the use of peppermint scent by others in the relevant marketplace (i.e., pharmaceuticals) tends to show that such scents are more likely to be perceived as attributes of ingestible products than as indicators of source)); cf. In re Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., 774 F.2d 1116, 227 USPQ 417 (Fed. Cir. 1985) (requiring concrete evidence that the mark is perceived as a mark to establish distinctiveness).

Flavor. Just as with a scent or fragrance, a flavor can never be inherently distinctive because it is generally seen as a characteristic of the goods. In re Pohl-Boskamp GmbH & Co., 106 USPQ2d at 1048 (finding that peppermint flavor mark for “pharmaceutical formulations of nitroglycerin” failed to function as a mark); In re N.V. Organon, 79 USPQ2d 1639 (TTAB 2006) (affirming refusal to register “an orange flavor” for “pharmaceuticals for human use, namely, antidepressants in quick-dissolving tablets and pills,” on the grounds that the proposed mark was functional under §2(e)(5) and failed to function as a mark within the meaning of §§1, 2, and 45 of the Trademark Act). The Board has observed that it is unclear how a flavor could function as a source indicator because flavor or taste generally performs a utilitarian function and consumers generally have no access to a product’s flavor or taste prior to purchase. Id. at 1650-51. Thus, an application to register a flavor “requires a substantial showing of acquired distinctiveness.” In re Pohl-Boskamp GmbH & Co., 106 USPQ2d at 1051-52 (noting the insufficiency of applicant’s evidence of acquired distinctiveness in light of evidence that the use of peppermint flavor by others in the relevant marketplace tends to show that such flavors are more likely to be perceived as attributes of ingestible products than as indicators of source); In re N.V. Organon, 79 USPQ2d at 1650.

See TMEP §807.09 regarding the requirements for submitting applications for non-visual marks.