TMEP 1212.06: Establishing Distinctiveness by Actual Evidence

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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1212.06    Establishing Distinctiveness by Actual Evidence

Under Trademark Rule 2.41(a)(3), 37 C.F.R. §2.41(a)(3), an applicant may submit affidavits, declarations under 37 C.F.R. §2.20, depositions, or other appropriate evidence showing the duration, extent, and nature of the applicant’s use of a mark in commerce that may lawfully be regulated by the U.S. Congress, advertising expenditures in connection with such use, letters, or statements from the trade and/or public, or other appropriate evidence tending to show that the mark distinguishes the goods or services.

Establishing acquired distinctiveness by actual evidence was explained as follows in In re Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., 774 F.2d 1116, 1125, 227 USPQ 417, 422 (Fed. Cir. 1985):

An evidentiary showing of secondary meaning, adequate to show that a mark has acquired distinctiveness indicating the origin of the goods, includes evidence of the trademark owner’s method of using the mark, supplemented by evidence of the effectiveness of such use to cause the purchasing public to identify the mark with the source of the product.

The kind and amount of evidence necessary to establish that a mark has acquired distinctiveness in relation to goods or services depends on the nature of the mark and the circumstances surrounding the use of the mark in each case. Yamaha Int’l Corp. v. Hoshino Gakki Co., 840 F.2d 1572, 1581, 6 USPQ2d 1001, 1008 (Fed. Cir. 1988); Roux Labs., Inc. v. Clairol Inc., 427 F.2d 823, 829, 166 USPQ 34, 39 (C.C.P.A. 1970); In re Hehr Mfg. Co., 279 F.2d 526, 528, 126 USPQ 381, 383 (C.C.P.A. 1960); In re Capital Formation Counselors, Inc., 219 USPQ 916, 918 (TTAB 1983).

Evidence that only shows a mark used in conjunction with other wording may be insufficient to show that the mark has acquired distinctiveness. See In re Mogen David Wine Corp., 372 F.2d 539, 542, 152 USPQ 593, 595-96 (C.C.P.A. 1967) (finding evidence of a bottle design failed to prove secondary meaning where advertising depicting the bottle design always featured applicant’s word mark); In re Franklin Cnty. Historical Soc’y, 104 USPQ2d 1085, 1093 (TTAB 2012) (noting none of applicant’s evidence showed use of the proposed mark "CENTER OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY" without the acronym "COSI," while other evidence only used the acronym to refer to applicant’s services).

In considering a claim of acquired distinctiveness, the issue is whether acquired distinctiveness of the mark in relation to the goods or services has in fact been established in the minds of the purchasing public, not whether the mark is capable of becoming distinctive. In re Redken Labs., Inc., 170 USPQ 526, 528 (TTAB 1971); In re Fleet-Wing Corp., 122 USPQ 335, 335 (TTAB 1959).

The following sections provide examples of different types of evidence that have been used, alone or in combination, to establish acquired distinctiveness. No single evidentiary factor is determinative. The value of a specific type of evidence and the amount necessary to establish acquired distinctiveness will vary according to the facts of the specific case.