TMEP 1213.05(c): Double Entendre

This is the October 2015 Edition of the TMEP

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1213.05(c)    Double Entendre

A “double entendre” is a word or expression capable of more than one interpretation. For trademark purposes, a “double entendre” is an expression that has a double connotation or significance as applied to the goods or services. The mark that comprises the “double entendre” will not be refused registration as merely descriptive if one of its meanings is not merely descriptive in relation to the goods or services.

A true “double entendre” is unitary by definition. An expression that is a “double entendre” should not be broken up for purposes of requiring a disclaimer. See In re Kraft, Inc., 218 USPQ 571, 573 (TTAB 1983), where the Board found inappropriate a requirement for a disclaimer of “LIGHT” apart from the mark “LIGHT N’ LIVELY” for reduced calorie mayonnaise, stating as follows:

The mark “LIGHT N’ LIVELY” as a whole has a suggestive significance which is distinctly different from the merely descriptive significance of the term “LIGHT” per se. That is, the merely descriptive significance of the term “LIGHT” is lost in the mark as a whole. Moreover, the expression as a whole has an alliterative lilting cadence which encourages persons encountering it to perceive it as a whole.

See also In re Symbra’ette, Inc., 189 USPQ 448 (TTAB 1975) (holding SHEER ELEGANCE for panty hose to be a registrable unitary expression; thus, no disclaimer of “SHEER” considered necessary).

The multiple interpretations that make an expression a “double entendre” must be associations that the public would make fairly readily, and must be readily apparent from the mark itself. See In re RiseSmart Inc., 104 USPQ2d 1931, 1934 (TTAB 2012) (finding that TALENT ASSURANCE does not present a double entendre such that “the merely descriptive significance of the term [TALENT] is lost in the mark as a whole”); In re The Place, Inc., 76 USPQ2d 1467, 1470 (TTAB 2005) (holding THE GREATEST BAR laudatory and merely descriptive of restaurant and bar services; the Board stating that “[i]f the alleged second meaning of the mark is apparent to purchasers only after they view the mark in the context of the applicant’s trade dress, advertising materials or other matter separate from the mark itself, then the mark is not a double entendre”); In re Wells Fargo & Co., 231 USPQ 95, 99 (TTAB 1986) (holding EXPRESSERVICE merely descriptive for banking services, despite applicant’s argument that the term also connotes the Pony Express, the Board finding that, in the relevant context, the public would not make that association). See also In re Ethnic Home Lifestyles Corp., 70 USPQ2d 1156, 1158 (TTAB 2003) (holding ETHNIC ACCENTS merely descriptive of “entertainment in the nature of television programs in the field of home décor,” because the meaning in the context of the services is home furnishings or decorations which reflect or evoke particular ethnic traditions or themes, which identifies a significant feature of applicant’s programs; viewers of applicant’s programs deemed unlikely to discern a double entendre referring to a person who speaks with a foreign accent).

If all meanings of a “double entendre” are merely descriptive in relation to the goods, then the mark comprising the “double entendre” must be refused registration as merely descriptive.

The following cases illustrate situations where marks were considered to be “double entendres” and, therefore, registrable unitary marks: In re Colonial Stores Inc., 394 F.2d 549, 157 USPQ 382 (C.C.P.A. 1968) (SUGAR & SPICE for bakery products); In re Tea and Sympathy, Inc., 88 USPQ2d 1062 (TTAB 2008) (holding THE FARMACY registrable for retail store services featuring natural herbs and organic products and related health and information services relating to dietary supplements and nutrition); In re Simmons Co., 189 USPQ 352 (TTAB 1976) (THE HARD LINE for mattresses and bed springs); In re Del. Punch Co., 186 USPQ 63 (TTAB 1975) (THE SOFT PUNCH for noncarbonated soft drink); In re National Tea Co., 144 USPQ 286 (TTAB 1965) (NO BONES ABOUT IT for fresh pre-cooked ham).