TMEP 1210.04(b): Establishing Services/Place Association

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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1210.04(b)    Establishing Services/Place Association

It is more difficult, with respect to refusals under §§2(a) and 2(e)(3), to establish a services/place association than a goods/place association. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has provided the following guidance for refusals under §2(e)(3):

Application of the second prong of this test – the services-place association – requires some consideration. A customer typically receives services, particularly in the restaurant business, at the location of the business. Having chosen to come to that place for the services, the customer is well aware of the geographic location of the service. This choice necessarily implies that the customer is less likely to associate the services with the geographic location invoked by the mark rather than the geographic location of the service, such as a restaurant. In this case, the customer is less likely to identify the services with a region of Paris when sitting in a restaurant in New York.

[T]he services-place association operates somewhat differently than a goods-place association…. In a case involving goods, the goods-place association often requires little more than a showing that the consumer identifies the place as a known source of the product [citations omitted]. Thus, to make a goods-place association, the case law permits an inference that the consumer associates the product with the geographic location in the mark because that place is known for producing the product. [citation omitted] In the case of a services-place association, however, a mere showing that the geographic location in the mark is known for performing the service is not sufficient. Rather the second prong of the test requires some additional reason for the consumer to associate the services with the geographic location invoked by the mark. See In re Mun. Capital Mkts., Corp., 51 USPQ2d 1369, 1370–71 (TTAB 1999) ("Examining Attorney must present evidence that does something more than merely establish that services as ubiquitous as restaurant services are offered in the pertinent geographic location."). Thus, a services-place association in a case dealing with restaurant services … requires a showing that the patrons of the restaurant are likely to believe the restaurant services have their origin in the location indicated by the mark. In other words, to refuse registration under section 2(e)(3), the PTO must show that patrons will likely be misled to make some meaningful connection between the restaurant (the service) and the relevant place.

For example, the PTO might find a services-place association if the record shows that patrons, though sitting in New York, would believe the food served by the restaurant was imported from Paris, or that the chefs in New York received specialized training in the region in Paris, or that the New York menu is identical to a known Parisian menu, or some other heightened association between the services and the relevant place….

In re Les Halles De Paris J.V., 334 F.3d 1371, 1373–74, 67 USPQ2d 1539, 1541–42 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (LE MARAIS held not primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive of restaurant services. Evidence that "Le Marais" was a fashionable Jewish area in Paris was insufficient to establish that the public would believe that "Le Marais" was the source of New York restaurant services featuring a kosher cuisine).

What constitutes a "heightened association" between the services and the place will vary depending on the nature of the services. There may be situations where the fact that the geographic location is known or famous for performing the service would be sufficient to establish a services/place association (e.g., "Texas" for cattle breeding services).

The burden is greater for restaurant services, due to their ubiquitous nature. In re Consol. Specialty Rests., Inc., 71 USPQ2d 1921 (TTAB 2004) (COLORADO STEAKHOUSE and design held primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive of restaurant services). In Consol. Specialty Rests., the Board found that the examining attorney had established an "additional reason" why purchasers would mistakenly believe that the food served in the restaurant was from Colorado, where the record contained the following evidence: gazetteer and dictionary definitions of "Colorado" and "steakhouse;" a United States Department of Agriculture report on cattle inventory; stories excerpted from the LexisNexis® database; and Internet excerpts showing that Colorado was one of the 11 top cattle states in the United States, that Colorado was known for its steaks, that "Colorado steaks" are featured food items in restaurants outside the state, and that politicians from Colorado use "Colorado steaks" as the basis for wagers on sporting events. Id. at 1927-28.