TMEP 1211.01(a)(iv): Historical Place or Person

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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1211.01(a)(iv)    Historical Place or Person

A term with surname significance may not be primarily merely a surname if that term also identifies a historical place or person. See Lucien Piccard Watch Corp. v. Since 1868 Crescent Corp., 314 F. Supp. 329, 331, 165 USPQ 459, 461 (S.D.N.Y. 1970) (holding DA VINCI not primarily merely a surname because it primarily connotes Leonardo Da Vinci); In re Pyro-Spectaculars, Inc., 63 USPQ2d 2022, 2024 (TTAB 2002) (holding SOUSA for fireworks and production of events and shows featuring pyrotechnics not primarily merely a surname, where the evidence showed present-day recognition and continuing fame of John Philip Sousa as a composer of patriotic music, and the applicant’s goods and services were of a nature that "would be associated by potential purchasers with patriotic events such as the Fourth of July, patriotic figures, and patriotic music"); Michael S. Sachs Inc. v. Cordon Art B.V., 56 USPQ2d 1132, 1136 (TTAB 2000) (finding the primary significance of M. C. ESCHER to be that of a famous deceased Dutch artist); cf. In re Pickett Hotel Co., 229 USPQ 760, 762 (TTAB 1986) (holding PICKETT SUITE HOTEL primarily merely a surname despite applicant’s evidence that PICKETT was the name of a famous Civil War general); In re Champion Int’l Corp., 229 USPQ 550, 551 (TTAB 1985) (holding McKINLEY primarily merely a surname despite being the name of a deceased president).

Evidence that an individual is famous in a particular field does not necessarily establish that he or she is a historical figure. In re Binion, 93 USPQ2d 1531 (TTAB 2009) (holding BINION and BINION’S primarily merely a surname; although there was evidence that applicant had played a significant role in the gaming industry in Las Vegas, his notoriety was not deemed so remarkable or so significant that he is a historical figure); In re Thermo LabSystems Inc., 85 USPQ2d 1285 (TTAB 2007) (holding WATSON primarily merely a surname). Furthermore, the Board has held that a surname that would be evocative of numerous individuals, rather than one particular historical individual, does not qualify as a historical name and is merely a surname of numerous individuals with varying degree of historical significance. Id. at 1290.