TMEP 1203.02(f)(ii): Other Arguments

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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1203.02(f)(ii)    Other Arguments

Applicants may attempt to overcome a §2(a) refusal by providing evidence that applicant’s advertising, or other means, would make consumers aware of the misdescription. Neither evidence regarding advertising, labeling, or extent of use, nor information found on the specimens, can negate the misdescriptiveness with regard to use of the mark in relation to the goods or services. In addition, an applicant’s anecdotal or past practices and "explanatory statements in advertising or on labels which purchasers may or may not note and which may or may not always be provided" are of little value in the deceptiveness analysis. See In re Budge Mfg. Co., 857 F.2d 773, 775-76, 8 USPQ2d 1259, 1261 (Fed. Cir. 1988).

However, in some cases, the applicant may be able to provide credible evidence that consumers would not expect goods sold under a certain mark to actually consist of or contain the feature or characteristic named in the mark. See, e.g., In re Robert Simmons, Inc.,192 USPQ 331 (TTAB 1976)(holding that WHITE SABLE is not deceptive on artist's paint brushes).

The argument that there is no deception because consumers will immediately discern the true nature of the goods and/or services when they encounter them is not persuasive. Deception can attach prior to seeing or encountering the goods or services, for example, based on advertising over the radio or Internet or via word of mouth. See In re ALP of S. Beach, Inc., 79 USPQ2d 1009, 1014 (TTAB 2006).

As noted above, marks that are deceptive under §2(a) are never registrable on either the Principal Register, even under §2(f) or the Supplemental Register. However, applicants may present evidence of a similar nature to what is often submitted for acquired distinctiveness, such as declarations regarding how the mark is perceived by consumers, as rebuttal evidence to the prima facie case, in an effort to overcome one or all of the prongs of the §2(a) test. See In re Woolrich Woolen Mills Inc., 13 USPQ2d 1235, 1238 (TTAB 1989). Note that merely relying on the length of use, without providing other information or evidence, would never be sufficient to overcome a §2(a) refusal. Moreover, priority of use cannot overcome a deceptiveness refusal. In re AOP LLC, 107 USPQ2d 1644, 1650 n.6 (TTAB 2013).

The fact that only those knowledgeable in the relevant trade, and not 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).