TMEP 1212.02(f)(ii)(B): Inappropriate Situations for Claiming §2(f) in Part

This is the October 2015 Edition of the TMEP

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1212.02(f)(ii)(B)    Inappropriate Situations for Claiming §2(f) in Part

Claim Applies to Entire Mark

When a mark is comprised of merely descriptive matter, geographically descriptive matter, or a surname combined with generic matter, and the applicant has made a prima facie case of acquired distinctiveness, the applicant’s §2(f) claim should generally refer to the entire mark as used, with a separate disclaimer of any generic term(s).

For example, if the mark is NATIONAL CAR RENTAL for car-rental services and the applicant can show acquired distinctiveness as to the entire mark, the proper claim is §2(f) as to NATIONAL CAR RENTAL with a separate disclaimer of the generic wording CAR RENTAL. Similarly, if the mark is NATIONAL CAR RENTAL combined with an inherently distinctive design element, and the applicant can show acquired distinctiveness as to the entire wording, the proper §2(f) statement is §2(f) in part as to the wording NATIONAL CAR RENTAL with a separate disclaimer of CAR RENTAL. In these examples, it would be improper to limit the §2(f) statement to the word NATIONAL because the applicant is not claiming acquired distinctiveness as to NATIONAL, but rather as to the wording NATIONAL CAR RENTAL.

However, if the applicant can show acquired distinctiveness only as to the word NATIONAL (e.g., because the applicant had not previously used the entire wording NATIONAL CAR RENTAL), the applicant may claim §2(f) in part as to NATIONAL and must separately disclaim CAR RENTAL. Similarly, if the mark is NATIONAL CAR RENTAL combined with an inherently distinctive design element, and the applicant can show acquired distinctiveness only as to the word NATIONAL, the proper §2(f) statement is §2(f) in part as to the word NATIONAL with a separate disclaimer of CAR RENTAL. As noted above, this situation is rare, and the record must clearly reflect that the applicant can show acquired distinctiveness only as to the claimed portion of the mark.

If a §2(f) in part claim is improperly provided by the applicant when the record reflects that the §2(f) claim should apply to the entire mark, the examining attorney must issue a new requirement to correct the §2(f) claim.

Inappropriate Alternative to a Disclaimer

In some situations, §2(f) in part is not an acceptable alternative to a disclaimer requirement. Specifically, if an applicant’s claim of distinctiveness applies to only part of a mark and the examining attorney determines that (1) the claimed portion of the mark is unregistrable (e.g., generic) and therefore the §2(f) claim is of no avail or (2) although the claimed portion is registrable, the applicant has failed to establish acquired distinctiveness, the examining attorney may require a disclaimer of that portion of the mark, assuming a disclaimer is otherwise appropriate. See In re Lillian Vernon Corp., 225 USPQ 213 (TTAB 1985) (affirming requirement for disclaimer of PROVENDER in application to register PROVENDER and design for “mail order services in the gourmet, bath and gift item field,” “provender” meaning “food” (claim of §2(f) distinctiveness in part held unacceptable)); cf. In re Chopper Indus., 222 USPQ 258 (TTAB 1984) (reversing requirement for disclaimer of CHOPPER in application to register CHOPPER 1 and design for wood log splitting axes (claim of §2(f) distinctiveness in part held acceptable)).

Relying on a Claim of Ownership of a Prior Registration

In certain cases, an applicant may not rely on ownership of one or more prior registrations on the Principal Register of the relevant portion of the mark, for goods or services that are the same as or related to those named in the pending application, to support a claim of §2(f) in part.

First, if the term for which the applicant seeks to prove distinctiveness was disclaimed in the claimed prior registration, the prior registration may not be accepted as prima facie evidence of acquired distinctiveness. See Kellogg Co. v. Gen. Mills, Inc., 82 USPQ2d 1766, 1771 n.5 (TTAB 2007); In re Candy Bouquet Int’l, Inc., 73 USPQ2d 1883, 1889-90 (TTAB 2004); TMEP §1212.04(a). For example, if the mark is TASTY SNACKERS for potato chips and the applicant attempts to rely on a prior registration for the mark TASTY combined with an inherently distinctive design, with TASTY disclaimed, for the same goods, to support its claim of acquired distinctiveness as to the descriptive word TASTY, such evidence would not be sufficient since the word TASTY was disclaimed in the prior registration. Absent additional evidence to show acquired distinctiveness as to TASTY, the examining attorney must require the applicant to delete the claim of §2(f) in part, and instead provide a disclaimer of the term TASTY.

Second, when an applicant is claiming §2(f) in part as to only a portion of its mark, the mark in the claimed prior registration must be the same as or the legal equivalent of the portion of the mark for which the applicant is claiming acquired distinctiveness. A mark is the legal equivalent of a portion of another mark if it creates the same, continuing commercial impression such that the consumer would consider the mark to be the same as the portion of the other mark. See TMEP §1212.04(b) and cases cited therein.

§2(f) in Part versus §2(f) Claim Restricted to Particular Goods, Services, or Classes

A claim of §2(f) in part should not be confused with a §2(f) claim restricted to certain classes in a multiple-class application or to a portion of the goods/services within a single class. Such a restriction can be made regardless of whether the applicant is claiming §2(f) for the entire mark or §2(f) in part for a portion of the mark. See TMEP §1212.02(j).