TMEP 1207.01(d)(vii): Sophisticated Purchasers

This is the October 2015 Edition of the TMEP

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1207.01(d)(vii)    Sophisticated Purchasers

The fact that purchasers are sophisticated or knowledgeable in a particular field does not necessarily mean that they are immune to source confusion. See In re Shell Oil Co., 992 F.2d 1204, 1208, 26 USPQ2d 1687, 1690 (Fed. Cir. 1993) (indicating that “even sophisticated purchasers can be confused by very similar marks”); Top Tobacco, LP v. N. Atl. Operating Co., 101 USPQ2d 1163, 1170 (TTAB 2011); In re Total Quality Grp., Inc., 51 USPQ2d 1474, 1477 (TTAB 1999); In re Decombe, 9 USPQ2d 1812, 1814-15 (TTAB 1988); In re Pellerin Milnor Corp., 221 USPQ 558, 560 (TTAB 1983); cf. Stone Lion Capital Partners, L.P. v. Lion Capital LLP, 746 F.3d 1317, 1325, 110 USPQ2d 1157, 1163 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (affirming that TTAB properly considered all potential investors for recited services, which included sophisticated investors, but that precedent requires TTAB decision to be based “on the least sophisticated potential purchasers.”)However, circumstances suggesting care in purchasing may tend to minimize the likelihood of confusion. See, e.g., In re N.A.D., Inc., 754 F.2d 996, 999-1000, 224 USPQ 969, 971 (Fed. Cir. 1985) (concluding that, because only sophisticated purchasers exercising great care would purchase the relevant goods, there would be no likelihood of confusion merely because of the similarity between the marks NARCO and NARKOMED); In re Homeland Vinyl Prods., Inc., 81 USPQ2d 1378, 1380, 1383 (TTAB 2006).