TMEP 1214.01: Single Application May Seek Registration of Only One Mark

This is the October 2015 Edition of the TMEP

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1214.01    Single Application May Seek Registration of Only One Mark

Where an applicant seeks registration of a mark with a changeable or “phantom” element, the examining attorney must refuse registration under §§1 and 45 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1051 and 1127, on the ground that the application seeks registration of more than one mark. See In re Int'l Flavors & Fragrances Inc., 183 F.3d 1361, 51 USPQ2d 1513 (Fed. Cir. 1999); In re Primo Water Corp., 87 USPQ2d 1376 (TTAB 2008); Cineplex Odeon Corp. v. Fred Wehrenberg Circuit of Theatres Inc., 56 USPQ2d 1538 (TTAB 2000).

In International Flavors, the applicant filed three applications to register the designations “LIVING xxxx,” “LIVING xxxx FLAVOR,” and “LIVING xxxx FLAVORS,” for essential oils and flavor substances. The applications indicated that “the ‘xxxx’ served to denote 'a specific herb, fruit, plant or vegetable.'” Int’l Flavors, 183 F.3d at 1363-64, 51 USPQ2d at 1514-15. In upholding the refusal of registration, the Federal Circuit noted that under §22 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1072, registration serves as constructive notice to the public of the registrant’s ownership of the mark and, therefore, precludes another user from claiming innocent misappropriation as a trademark infringement defense. To make this constructive notice meaningful, the mark as registered must accurately reflect the mark that is used in commerce, so that someone who searches the register for a similar mark will locate the registration. The court stated that “phantom marks” with missing elements “encompass too many combinations and permutations to make a thorough and effective search possible” and, therefore, the registration of these marks does not provide adequate notice to competitors and the public. Id. at 1367-68, 51 USPQ2d at 1517-18.

In Primo Water, the Board affirmed a refusal of registration of a mark comprising the “placement and orientation of identical spaced indicia” on either side of the handle of a water bottle in inverted orientation, where the description of the mark indicated that the “indicia” can be “text, graphics or a combination of both.” Primo Water, 87 USPQ2d at 1377. The Board noted that the varying indicia must be viewed by consumers before they can perceive the repetition and inversion elements of the mark, and that marks with changeable or “phantom” elements do not provide proper notice to other trademark users. Id. at 1379-80. The Board also noted that the only issue on appeal was whether applicant seeks to register more than one mark, and that this issue is separate from the question of whether the proposed mark is distinctive and functions as a mark. Id. at 1380.

See also In re Upper Deck Co., 59 USPQ2d 1688, 1691 (TTAB 2001) (finding hologram used on trading cards in varying shapes, sizes, contents, and positions constitutes more than one “device” as contemplated by §45 of the Trademark Act).

See TMEP §807.01 regarding the requirement that an application be limited to one mark.