TMEP 1210.08(a): Geographical Indications Used on Wines and Spirits That Do Not Originate in the Named Place

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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1210.08(a)    Geographical Indications Used on Wines and Spirits That Do Not Originate in the Named Place

In implementing the TRIPs Agreement through the Uruguay Round Agreements Act ("URAA"), Pub. L. No. 103-465, 108 Stat. 4809 (1994), Congress approved a Statement of Administrative Action ("SAA") which provides, in part, that:

"Geographical indications" are defined in TRIPs Article 22.1 as "indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a Member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin." The Administration expects that this definition will be applied in the context of trademark registration and that a "geographical indication" as used in this provision will be interpreted to comprise only those areas which have a reputation for being associated with the specific goods at issue. Obscure areas or those that do not have a reputation or other characteristics generally associated with wines or spirits should not be prohibited from registration (emphasis added).

Statement of Administrative Action, Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, H.R. Doc. No. 103-316, §B.1.e (1994); 19 U.S.C. §§3511(a)(2) and 3512(d).

A designation is considered a geographical indication under §2(a) if it identifies the applicant’s wines or spirits as originating in a territory known for a given quality, reputation, or other characteristic associated with wines or spirits. A mark for wines or spirits that includes a geographical indication is unregistrable if: (1) purchasers would erroneously believe that the goods originate in the relevant geographic location; and (2) the quality, reputation, or characteristic associated with wines or spirits from that location would materially affect the purchaser’s decision to buy the goods.

To establish a prima facie case for refusal to register a mark under the "wines and spirits" provision of §2(a), the following is required:

  • (1) The primary significance of the relevant term or design is geographic, e.g., a place name, abbreviation, nickname, or symbol; or an outline or map of a geographic area (see TMEP §§1210.02(a)–1210.02(b)(iv));
  • (2) Purchasers would be likely to think that the goods originate in the geographic place identified in the mark, i.e., purchasers would make a goods/place association (see TMEP §§1210.04–1210.04(d));
  • (3) The goods do not originate in the place identified in the mark (see TMEP §1210.03);
  • (4) A purchaser's erroneous belief as to the geographic origin of the goods would materially affect the purchaser's decision to buy the goods (see TMEP §§1210.05(c)–1210.05(c)(ii)); and
  • (5) The mark was first used in commerce by the applicant on or after January 1, 1996.

Section 2(a) is an absolute bar to the registration of false geographical indications used on wines or spirits on either the Principal Register or the Supplemental Register. Neither a disclaimer of the geographic term or design nor a claim that it has acquired distinctiveness under §2(f) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(f), can obviate a §2(a) refusal if the mark consists of or includes a geographical indication that identifies a place other than the true origin of the wines or spirits.

Requirement for First Use On or After January 1, 1996

For all applications filed under §1(b), §44, or §66(a) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1051(b), §11.6, or §1141f(a), or for applications filed under §1(a) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1051(a), where the application fails to indicate the applicant’s date of first use of the mark in commerce, the examining attorney should presume that the applicant’s first use of the mark in commerce is or will be on or after January 1, 1996, unless the application record indicates otherwise.

If the examining attorney determines that a mark featuring a false geographical indication was in use priorto January 1, 1996, the examining attorney must refuse registration because the mark is primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive under §2(e)(3) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(e)(3), and deceptive under §2(a). See TMEP §1210.05(a).