TMEP 1207.01(b)(v): Similarity in Meaning

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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1207.01(b)(v)    Similarity in Meaning

Similarity in meaning or connotation is another factor in determining whether the marks are confusingly similar. See In re E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 476 F.2d 1357, 1361, 177 USPQ 563, 567 (C.C.P.A. 1973); In re Cynosure, Inc., 90 USPQ2d 1644, 1645-46 (TTAB 2009). The focus is on the recollection of the average purchaser who normally retains a general, rather than specific, impression of trademarks. In re Bay State Brewing Co., 117 USPQ2d 1958, 1960 (TTAB 2016) (citing Spoons Rests. Inc. v. Morrison Inc., 23 USPQ2d 1735, 1741 (TTAB 1991), aff’d per curiam, 972 F.2d 1353 (Fed. Cir. 1992)); In re C.H. Hanson Co., 116 USPQ2d 1351, 1353 (TTAB 2015) (citing Joel Gott Wines LLC v. Rehoboth Von Gott Inc., 107 USPQ2d 1424, 1430 (TTAB 2013)); see also San Fernando Elec. Mfg. Co. v. JFD Electronics Components Corp., 565 F.2d 683, 196 USPQ 1, 2-3 (CCPA 1977) ("Obviously, the marks here are constructed of old linguistic elements, but they must be considered as wholes, and not on the basis of side-by-side comparison, and in the light of the fallibility of memory."); Neutrogena Corp. v. Bristol-Myers Co., 410 F.2d 1391, 161 USPQ 687, 688 (CCPA 1969) (many consumers "may have but dim recollections from having previously seen or heard one or the other of the involved marks.").

The meaning or connotation of a mark must be determined in relation to the named goods or services. Even marks that are identical in sound and/or appearance may create sufficiently different commercial impressions when applied to the respective parties’ goods or services so that there is no likelihood of confusion. See, e.g., In re Sears, Roebuck & Co., 2 USPQ2d 1312, 1314 (TTAB 1987) (holding CROSS-OVER for bras and CROSSOVER for ladies’ sportswear not likely to cause confusion, noting that the term "CROSS-OVER" was suggestive of the construction of applicant’s bras, whereas "CROSSOVER," as applied to registrant’s goods, was "likely to be perceived by purchasers either as an entirely arbitrary designation, or as being suggestive of sportswear which "crosses over" the line between informal and more formal wear... or the line between two seasons"); In re British Bulldog, Ltd., 224 USPQ 854, 856 (TTAB 1984) (holding PLAYERS for men’s underwear and PLAYERS for shoes not likely to cause confusion, agreeing with applicant's argument that the term "PLAYERS" implies a fit, style, color, and durability suitable for outdoor activities when applied to shoes, but "'implies something else, primarily indoors in nature'" when applied to men’s underwear); In re Sydel Lingerie Co., 197 USPQ 629, 630 (TTAB 1977) (holding BOTTOMS UP for ladies’ and children’s underwear and BOTTOMS UP for men’s clothing not likely to cause confusion, noting that the wording connotes the drinking phrase "Drink Up" when applied to men’s clothing, but does not have this connotation when applied to ladies’ and children’s underwear). Cf. In re i.am.symbolic, llc, 866 F.3d 1315, 123 USPQ2d 1744 (Fed. Cir. 2017) (affirming Board decision holding standard-character mark I AM likely to cause confusion with registered I AM marks and rejecting applicant’s argument that restriction limiting the goods to those "associated with William Adams, professionally known as ‘will.i.am,’" changed the meaning or overall commercial impression of the mark).