TMEP 1210.06: Procedure for Examining Geographic Composite Marks

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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1210.06    Procedure for Examining Geographic Composite Marks

A geographic composite mark is one composed of geographic matter coupled with additional matter (e.g., wording and/or a design element). When examining such a mark, the examining attorney must first determine the primary significance of the composite. See TMEP §§1210.02(c)–1210.02(c)(iii).

Composite marks present unique issues in regard to both geographically descriptive and misdescriptive refusals. When evaluating whether the mark’s primary significance is a generally known geographic location, a composite mark must be evaluated as a whole. See In re Save Venice New York Inc., 259 F.3d 1346,1352, 59 USPQ2d 1778, 1782 (Fed. Cir. 2001); In re Morinaga Nyugyo Kabushiki Kaisha, 120 USPQ2d 1738, 1748(TTAB 2016). In order to do so, the examining attorney may also consider the significance of each element within the mark. In re Save Venice New York Inc., 259 F.3d at 1352, 59 USPQ2d at 1782.

For example, the mark PARIS BEACH CLUB, for clothing, was held not to be perceived as primarily geographic. In re Sharky's Drygoods Co., 23 USPQ2d 1061 (TTAB 1992). Because Paris is known for haute couture, is not located on an ocean or lake and does not have a beach, the Board found that the juxtaposition of PARIS with BEACH CLUB resulted in an incongruous phrase and that the word PARIS would be viewed as a facetious rather than a geographic reference. Id. at 1062. The mark NEW YORK WAYS GALLERY, however, was found to be geographically deceptive. In re Wada, 194 F.3d 1297, 52 USPQ2d 1539 (Fed. Cir. 1999). The Board determined that (1) NEW YORK was not an obscure geographical term; (2) NEW YORK was known as a place where the goods at issue were designed, manufactured, and sold; and (3) the primary geographic significance was not lost by the addition of WAYS GALLERY to NEW YORK. Likewise, in the case of the mark YBOR GOLD, the Board held that the mere addition of the word GOLD to the geographic designation YBOR did not result in an arbitrary, fanciful, or suggestive composite. In re S. Park Cigar, Inc., 82 USPQ2d 1507 (TTAB 2007). The Board determined that GOLD connoted the high quality of the goods and thus did not detract from the geographic significance of YBOR or negate the primarily geographic significance of the mark as a whole. Id. at 1513.

Depending on the primary significance of the composite, the examining attorney will handle the geographic issue in a geographic composite mark in one of the following ways:

  • (1) If the examining attorney finds that the mark, when viewed as a whole, is arbitrary, fanciful, or suggestive, he or she will approve the mark for publication without evidence that the mark has acquired distinctiveness under §2(f). However, examining attorneys must consult their senior or managing attorney before going forward when they have made a preliminary determination that the primary significance of the mark as a whole is not geographic. The senior or managing attorney will make the final determination or may seek guidance from the Office of Legal Policy, within the Office of the Deputy Commissioner for Trademark Examination Policy;
  • (2) If the examining attorney finds that the mark is primarily geographically descriptive under §2(e)(2) without a showing of acquired distinctiveness, primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive under §2(e)(3), or deceptive under §2(a), he or she will refuse registration of the mark as a whole; or
  • (3) If the examining attorney finds that the geographic matter is a separable part of the mark, the examining attorney’s action will depend on whether the matter is primarily geographically descriptive, primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive, or deceptive. See TMEP §1210.06(a) regarding primarily geographically descriptive composites, and TMEP §1210.06(b) regarding primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive and deceptive composites.