TMEP 1207.01(c)(i): Legal Equivalents – Comparison of Words and Their Equivalent Designs

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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1207.01(c)(i)    Legal Equivalents – Comparison of Words and Their Equivalent Designs

Under the doctrine of legal equivalents, which is based on a recognition that a pictorial depiction and equivalent wording are likely to impress the same mental image on purchasers, a design mark may be found to be confusingly similar to a word mark consisting of the design's literal equivalent. See, e.g., In re Rolf Nilsson AB, 230 USPQ 141 (TTAB 1986) (holding applicant’s mark consisting of a silhouette of a lion’s head and the letter "L," for shoes, and registrant’s mark, LION, for shoes, likely to cause confusion); Puma-Sportschuhfabriken Rudolf Dassler KG v. Garan, Inc., 224 USPQ 1064 (TTAB 1984) (holding applicant’s marks featuring a design of a mountain lion, for clothing items, and opposer’s marks, a puma design and PUMA (with and without puma design), for items of clothing and sporting goods, likely to cause confusion); In re Duofold Inc., 184 USPQ 638 (TTAB 1974) (holding mark consisting of a design of an eagle lined for the color gold, for sports apparel, and mark consisting of GOLDEN EAGLE and design of an eagle, for various items of clothing, likely to cause confusion).

Where, however, a pictorial representation in a mark is so highly stylized or abstract that it would not readily evoke in the purchaser’s mind the wording featured in another mark, the marks may not be confusingly similar. See, e.g., In re Serac, Inc., 218 USPQ 340, 341 (TTAB 1983) (concluding that applicant’s design mark was "so highly stylized that an image of a ram’s head would not be immediately discerned and the connection with [the registered mark] ‘RAM’s HEAD’ would not be readily evoked with the resulting generation of a likelihood of source confusion").