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

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

Previous: §1203.02(b) | Next: §1203.02(d)

1203.02(c)    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., 857 F.2d 773, 775, 8 USPQ2d 1259, 1260 (Fed. Cir. 1988) (i.e., whether a mark is misdescriptive of the goods/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). See TMEP §1209.04 regarding deceptively misdescriptive marks.

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 be deceptively misdescriptive under §2(e)(1), the misdescription must concern a feature that would be relevant to the decision to purchase the goods or use the services. See In re Hinton, 116 USPQ2d 1051, 1055 (TTAB 2015); In re Shniberg, 79 USPQ2d 1309, 1311 (TTAB 2006) ("[T]he misdescription must concern a feature that would be relevant to a purchasing decision.").If the misdescription is more than simply a relevant factor that may be considered in purchasing decisions, but is a material factor, the mark would be deceptive under §2(a) of the Trademark Act,15 U.S.C. §1052(a). See In re White Jasmine LLC, 106 USPQ2d 1385 (TTAB 2013); In re Shniberg, 79 USPQ2d at 1313-14. See TMEP §1209.04 regarding establishing deceptive misdescriptiveness and TMEP §1203.02(d) regarding determining materiality.

If it is difficult to determine whether misdescriptive matter would materially affect a decision to purchase, the examining attorney should refuse registration under both §§2(a) and 2(e)(1). 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 denied, 352 U.S. 829, 111 USPQ 467 (1956), superseded by statute on other grounds as stated in Aktieselskabet AF 21. November 2001 v. Fame Jeans Inc., 525 F.3d 8, 86 USPQ2d 1527, 1532 (D.C. Cir. 2008). 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. See TMEP §1203.02(e) regarding procedures for issuing deceptiveness refusals under §2(a).

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, if appropriate.

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