TMEP 1210.05(c)(ii): Materiality In Cases Involving Services

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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1210.05(c)(ii)    Materiality In Cases Involving Services

In a case involving services, a showing that the geographic location in the mark is known for performing the service is not sufficient, unless it rises to the level of fame. This is especially true for restaurant services because, having chosen a particular restaurant, a customer is aware of the geographic location of the service and is less likely to associate the services with the place named in the mark (e.g., a customer is less likely to identify restaurant services with a region of Paris when sitting in a restaurant in New York).

Therefore, before addressing materiality, the examining attorney must satisfy the services/place association prong by providing evidence of an additional reason for the consumer to associate the services with the geographic location invoked by the mark. For example, the examining attorney could provide evidence that a customer sitting in a restaurant in one location would believe that:

  • The food came from the place named in the mark; or
  • The chef received specialized training in the place identified in the mark; or
  • The menu is identical to a known menu from the geographic location named in the mark.

See In re Les Halles De Paris J.V., 334 F.3d 1371, 1374, 67 USPQ2d 1539, 1541–1542 (Fed. Cir. 2003); In re Consol. Specialty Rests., Inc., 71 USPQ2d 1921, 1927 (TTAB 2004).

This heightened association between the services and geographic place named in the mark raises an inference of deception or materiality for a service mark. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has provided the following guidance regarding additional evidence that would be sufficient to satisfy the materiality element:

In any event, the record might show that customers would patronize the restaurant because they believed the food was imported from, or the chef was trained in, the place identified by the restaurant’s mark. The importation of food and culinary training are only examples, not exclusive methods of analysis….

Les Halles De Paris, 334 F.3d at 1375, 67 USPQ2d at 1542.

In Consol. Specialty Rests., Inc., the Board held COLORADO STEAKHOUSE and design primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive of restaurant services. In the course of that holding, the Board found that a mistaken belief that the steaks served in applicant’s restaurant were from Colorado would be material to the customer’s decision to patronize the restaurant, 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 1924-28. The Board stated that "an inference of materiality arises where there is a showing of a ‘heightened association’ between the services and the geographic place or, in other words, a showing of ‘a very strong services-place association.’" Id. at 1928.

See also TMEP §§1203.02–1203.02(g) regarding deceptive marks, and TMEP §1210.08 regarding geographical designations used on or in connection with wines or spirits that identify a place other than the origin of the goods.