TMEP 1207.01(d)(ix): Fame of the Prior Registered Mark

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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1207.01(d)(ix)    Fame of the Prior Registered Mark

According to In re E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., the "fame of the prior mark" is a factor to be considered in determining likelihood of confusion. 476 F.2d 1357, 1361, 177 USPQ 563, 567 (C.C.P.A. 1973). Because, in ex parte proceedings, the examining attorney is not expected to submit evidence regarding the fame of the cited mark, this factor is usually treated as neutral in such proceedings. However, this factor is usually considered more significant in inter partes proceedings. See Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC v. Fed. Corp., 673 F.3d 1330, 102 USPQ2d 1061 (Fed. Cir. 2012); Recot, Inc. v. M.C. Becton, 214 F.3d 1322, 54 USPQ2d 1894 (Fed. Cir. 2000); Research in Motion Ltd. v. Defining Presence Mktg. Grp., Inc., 102 USPQ2d 1187, 1192-93 (TTAB 2012); In re Thomas, 79 USPQ2d 1021, 1027 n.11 (TTAB 2006).

Famous marks are afforded a broad scope of legal protection because they are more likely to be remembered and associated in the public mind than a weaker mark. Palm Bay Imps., Inc. v. Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Maison Fondee en 1772, 396 F.3d 1369, 1374, 73 USPQ2d 1689, 1694 (Fed. Cir. 2005); Bose Corp. v. QSC Audio Prods. Inc., 293 F.3d 1367, 1371-76, 63 USPQ2d 1303, 1305-09 (Fed. Cir. 2002) (finding opposer’s marks, ACOUSTIC WAVE and WAVE, to be famous and thus entitled to broad protection); Recot, 214 F.3d at 1327, 54 USPQ2d at 1897 (finding Board erred in limiting the weight accorded to the fame of opposer’s FRITO-LAY mark); Kenner Parker Toys Inc. v. Rose Art Indus., Inc., 963 F.2d 350, 353, 22 USPQ2d 1453, 1456 (Fed. Cir. 1992) (finding Board erred in discounting the significance of the fame of opposer’s mark PLAY-DOH); UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Mattel, Inc., 100 USPQ2d 1868, 1883 (TTAB 2011) (finding MOTOWN very famous in connection with musical recordings and musical entertainment, and noting that "a famous mark such as Motown can be expected to cast a long shadow and to be used in connection with numerous collateral goods").

When present, the fame of a mark is "a dominant factor in the likelihood of confusion analysis... independent of the consideration of the relatedness of the goods." Recot, 214 F.3d at 1328, 54 USPQ2d at 1898; L’Oreal S.A. v. Marcon, 102 USPQ2d 1434, 1438 (TTAB 2012) (noting that "a finding that a mark enjoys significant fame expands the scope of protection which might be accorded a lesser-known mark" and that "the fame of a registered or previously used mark can never support a junior party"); Starbucks U.S. Brands, LLC v. Ruben, 78 USPQ2d 1741, 1750 (TTAB 2006) ("As the fame of a mark increases, the degree of similarity between the marks necessary to support a conclusion of likely confusion declines."); see also Nike, Inc. v. Maher, 100 USPQ2d 1018, 1023 (TTAB 2011) (finding applicant’s mark JUST JESU IT, and opposer’s mark JUST DO IT similar for likelihood of confusion purposes "despite the potential differences in meaning, given the fame of opposer’s mark and the similarity of appearance, pronunciation and overall commercial impressions").

However, like the other du Pont factors, the fame of a mark may be considered only if there is relevant evidence of record. See TMEP §1207.01. Thus, a party who asserts that its mark is famous must submit evidence clearly establishing that its mark is viewed by relevant purchasers as a famous mark. See, e.g., In re Hard Rock Cafe Licensing Corp. v. Elsea, 48 USPQ2d 1400, 1409 (TTAB 1998). The fame of a mark may be shown by evidence of, inter alia, the quantity of sales of products bearing the mark, the amount of advertising expenditures relating to the mark, and the length of time such indications of commercial awareness have been evident. See Bose, 293 F.3d at 1371, 63 USPQ2d at 1305-06.

Because of the nature of the evidence required to establish the fame of a registered mark, the Board normally does not expect the examining attorney to submit evidence as to the fame of the cited mark in an ex parte proceeding. See In re Thomas, 79 USPQ2d 1021, 1027 n.11 (TTAB 2006); see also In re Mr. Recipe, LLC, 118 USPQ2d 1084, 1086-88 (TTAB 2016) (considering and finding persuasive examining attorney’s evidence of fame of the registered mark JAWS, but reiterating that examining attorneys are not expected to submit evidence of fame). And, in an ex parte analysis of the du Pont factors for determining likelihood of confusion (see TMEP §1207.01), the "fame of the mark" factor is normally treated as neutral when no evidence as to fame has been provided. See id.; see also In re Davey Prods. Pty Ltd., 92 USPQ2d 1198, 1204 (TTAB 2009) (noting that the absence of evidence as to the fame of the registered mark "is not particularly significant in the context of an ex parte proceeding").