TMEP 1210.04(c): Obscure or Remote Geographic Marks

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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1210.04(c)    Obscure or Remote Geographic Marks

Geographic matter may be so obscure or remote that it would not be recognized as an indication of the geographic source of the goods or services. In such a case, the mark is treated as an arbitrary designation because its geographic meaning is likely to be lost on consumers. Thus, consumers will not perceive the geographic significance of the term as its primary significance and will not make a goods/place or services/place association. See In re Brouwerij Nacional Balashi NV, 80 USPQ2d 1820, 1827 (TTAB 2006) (finding Balashi, Aruba so obscure or remote that purchasers in the United States would not recognize it as indicating the geographical source of applicant’s beer); ConAgra Inc. v. Saavedra, 4 USPQ2d 1245 (TTAB 1987) (TAPATIO held not primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive of meatless hot sauce, despite the fact that the mark is a Spanish term meaning "of or pertaining to Guadalajara, Mexico" and the goods did not originate from Guadalajara, the Board finding that the significance of the term is lost on the public because of its obscurity); In re Bavaria St. Pauli Brauerei AG, 222 USPQ 926 (TTAB 1984) (reversing examining attorney’s requirement for disclaimer of "JEVER" in application to register JEVER and design for beer originating in Jever, West Germany, where the sole evidence of a goods/place association was an entry from a 32-year-old geographic index); In re Brauerei Aying Franz Inselkammer KG, 217 USPQ 73 (TTAB 1983) (AYINGER BIER ("BIER" disclaimed) held not primarily geographically descriptive of beer emanating from Aying, West Germany, a hamlet of 500 inhabitants, where the examining attorney’s only evidence of a goods/place association was the specimen label identifying Aying as the place of origin).

Remoteness or obscurity is determined from the perspective of the average American consumer. See In re Societe Generale des Eaux Minerales de Vittel, S.A., 824 F.2d 957, 3 USPQ2d 1450 (Fed. Cir. 1987) (VITTEL and design held not primarily geographically descriptive of cosmetic products because of lack of goods/place association between the goods and the applicant’s place of business in Vittel, France). However, the examining attorney does not necessarily have to show that the nationwide general public would associate the mark with the place. The significance of the term is determined not in the abstract, but from the point of view of the consumers of the particular goods or services identified in the application. In re MCO Properties Inc., 38 USPQ2d 1154 (TTAB 1995) (FOUNTAIN HILLS held primarily geographically descriptive of real estate development services rendered in Fountain Hills, Arizona, where the record showed that Fountain Hills was the name of the town where the applicant was located and rendered its services, and that the purchasers who came in contact with the mark would associate that place with the services).