TMEP 1210.02(b)(iii): Non-Geographic Characteristics of Goods or Services

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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1210.02(b)(iii)    Non-Geographic Characteristics of Goods or Services

Geographic matter may serve to designate a kind or type of goods or services, or to indicate a style or design that is a feature of the goods or services, rather than to indicate their geographic origin. For example, the geographic components in terms such as "dotted swiss," "Boston baked beans," "Swiss cheese," "Early American design," and "Italian spaghetti" are not understood as indicating the geographic origin of the goods but, rather, a particular type or style of product (regardless of where the product is produced). See Forschner Grp. Inc. v. Arrow Trading Co. Inc., 30 F.3d 348, 356, 31 USPQ2d 1614, 1619 (2d Cir. 1994), aff’d, 124 F.3d 402, 43 USPQ2d 1942 (2d Cir. 1997) (finding that SWISS ARMY KNIFE refers to a knife used by the Swiss Army, not an Army Knife from Switzerland); Institut Nat’l des Appellations D’Origine v. Vintners Int’l Co., Inc., 958 F.2d 1574, 1580, 22 USPQ2d 1190, 1195 (Fed. Cir. 1992) (finding evidence showing that Chablis is the name of a region in France insufficient to establish that CHABLIS WITH A TWIST is geographically deceptive of wine under §2(a), where evidence showed that the term "Chablis" would be perceived by consumers in the United States as the generic name for a type of wine with the general characteristics of French chablis); Hyde Park Clothes, Inc. v. Hyde Park Fashions, Inc., 93 USPQ 250 (S.D.N.Y. 1951), aff’d, 204 F.2d 223, 97 USPQ 246 (2d Cir. 1953), cert. denied, 346 U.S. 827, 99 USPQ 491 (1953) (primary significance of HYDE PARK for men’s suits is to suggest that the product is stylish or of high quality rather than to provide information about geographic origin).

When geographic terms are used in circumstances in which it is clear that they are meant to convey some meaning other than geographic origin, registration must not be refused on the basis of geographical descriptiveness or misdescriptiveness. However, there may be some other basis for refusal; for example, the terms may be merely descriptive or deceptively misdescriptive of the goods or services under §2(e)(1) of the Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(e)(1). In re MBNA Am. Bank, N.A., 340 F.3d 1328, 67 USPQ2d 1778 (Fed. Cir. 2003), reh’g denied, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 2187 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 12, 2004) (MONTANA SERIES and PHILADELPHIA SERIES are merely descriptive of "credit card services featuring credit cards depicting scenes or subject matter of, or relating to" the places named in the marks); In re Cox Enters. Inc., 82 USPQ2d 1040 (TTAB 2007) (applicant’s mark, THEATL, is simply a compressed version of the term "THE ATL," which is a nickname for the city of Atlanta, and is merely descriptive of the subject matter of applicant’s publications); In re Busch Entm't Corp., 60 USPQ2d 1130 (TTAB 2000) (EGYPT merely descriptive of subject matter or motif of amusement park services). See TMEP §§1209–1209.04 regarding marks that are merely descriptive or deceptively misdescriptive under §2(e)(1).

In rare circumstances, it may be unclear whether the primary significance of the term is geographic or merely descriptive or deceptively misdescriptive. In such cases, the examining attorney may refuse registration on both grounds, in the alternative.