1205.01(d)(ii)(D) Applicant’s Response to Refusal
Section 2(b) provides an absolute bar to registration. See TMEP §1204.04(a). Thus, a disclaimer of the relevant matter will not overcome the refusal, nor will a claim of acquired distinctiveness under §2(f) or an amendment to the Supplemental Register. Id.
In addition, if registration is refused because the drawing or specimen actually shows the cross and square/rectangle/shield element in white and red, the applicant may not overcome the refusal by merely providing a statement that the mark will not be used in the prohibited colors. (If the drawing contains a black-and-white depiction of the Swiss flag or the Swiss coat of arms, and the applicant provides a statement that the mark does not, or will not, appear in the colors white and red, the statement will remain in the application record but will not be printed on any registration certificate that may issue.)
For applications based on §1, an applicant may overcome a §2(b) refusal as follows:
- Amending the Colors in the Drawing. If registration is refused because the drawing shows the relevant matter in the prohibited color scheme, amending the drawing to show the matter in another color scheme—either in different colors or in no particular colors (i.e., black and white or gray scale)—will usually be sufficient to overcome the refusal. However, amending to a non-color drawing showing the mark in black and white or gray scale will not overcome the refusal if there is other matter in the mark (e.g., wording such as “Swiss” or “Switzerland”) that creates or reinforces the impression that the cross and square/rectangle/shield design in the mark is the Swiss flag or the Swiss coat of arms.
- Generally, amending the colors in the cross and square/rectangle/shield element in a mark to overcome a §2(b) refusal will not result in a material alteration of the mark. If the colors in the drawing are changed, the color claim and color description must also be amended or deleted, as appropriate. If the application is based on §1(a), the record must contain an acceptable matching specimen. Black-and-white or gray scale reproductions of specimens are not acceptable for this purpose; a color version of the specimen must be submitted.
- Amending the Color Claim/Description; Substitute Specimen. If the drawing is not in color, but registration is refused because the color claim or mark description indicates that the relevant matter appears in white and red, a §1 applicant may overcome the refusal by amending the color claim or mark description to delete any reference to color. Likewise, if the original drawing is not in color, but registration was refused because the specimen showed the relevant matter in the prohibited color scheme, the applicant may obviate the refusal by submitting a color specimen showing use of the relevant matter in the mark in colors other than white and red.
- Deleting the Coat of Arms or Flag from the Drawing. Section 1 applicants may also overcome a §2(b) refusal by deleting the unregistrable flag or coat of arms, but only if the matter is separable from other elements in the mark (e.g., the flag design is separated from, or is used as a background for, other matter in the mark) and the remaining matter is registrable. If the flag or coat or arms is deleted from the drawing, any specimen showing the mark with the deleted matter should still be considered to match the drawing. See TMEP §1204.04(b).
- Amending the Filing Basis to §1(b). If registration of the mark is refused under §2(b) because the specimen of record shows the relevant matter in white and red, applicant may amend the application filing basis to §1(b), in which case the examining attorney should withdraw the refusal. However, the refusal must be reissued if the specimen submitted with applicant’s subsequent allegation of use shows the relevant matter in the prohibited color scheme.
For applications based on §44 or §66(a), applicants generally may not make amendments to the mark; thus, the option to delete the Swiss flag or Swiss coat of arms is not available. 37 C.F.R. §§2.51(c), 2.72(c)(1); TMEP §§807.12(b), 1011.01, 1904.02(j). However, if a §44 or §66(a) application presents the mark in color, but there is no corresponding color claim in the foreign or international registration, the applicant may submit a statement that no claim of color is made with respect to the foreign or international registration and amend the drawing to a black-and-white reproduction of the mark. See TMEP §§1011.01, 1904.02(k). In this manner, the applicant may overcome the §2(b) refusal, provided there are no other Swiss indicia in the mark that would create the perception that the black-and-white or gray-scale coat of arms or flag in the mark is the Swiss coat of arms or Swiss flag.