TMEP 1210.08: Geographical Indications Used on Wines and Spirits

This is the October 2015 Edition of the TMEP

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1210.08    Geographical Indications Used on Wines and Spirits

Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(a), prohibits the registration of a designation that consists of or comprises “a geographical indication which, when used on or in connection with wines or spirits, identifies a place other than the origin of the goods and is first used on or in connection with wines or spirits by the applicant on or after [January 1, 1996].” This provision was added by the Uruguay Round Agreements Act, implementing the Trade-Related Intellectual Property (“TRIPs”) portions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (“GATT”). This provision does not apply to geographic indications that were first used in commerce on or in connection with wines or spirits prior to January 1, 1996.

The term “spirits” refers to “a strong distilled alcoholic liquor” (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, or brandy). Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary 1839 (2nd ed. 1998). This provision does not apply to designations used on or in connection with beer, nor does it apply to goods that are not wines or spirits, but are partially composed of wines or spirits (e.g., wine vinegar, wine sauces, wine jelly, rum balls, bourbon chicken).

This provision of §2(a) applies if the applicant’s identification of goods: (1) specifically includes wines or spirits; or (2) describes the goods using broad terms that could include wines or spirits (e.g., alcoholic beverages).

Section 2(a) is an absolute bar to the registration of these geographical designations on either the Principal Register or the Supplemental Register. Neither a disclaimer of the geographical designation nor a claim that it has acquired distinctiveness under §2(f) can obviate a §2(a) refusal if the mark consists of or comprises a geographical indication that identifies a place other than the origin of the wines or spirits.

See TMEP §1210.08(a) regarding geographical indications used on wines and spirits that do not originate in the named place, TMEP §1210.08(b) regarding geographical indications used on wines and spirits that originate in the named place, TMEP §1210.08(c) regarding geographical indications that are generic for wines and spirits, and TMEP §1402.03(g) regarding situations in which the name and/or acronym of a trademark protection system or scheme for a geographical indication appears in an identification.