TMEP 1301.01(a)(iii): Sufficiently Distinct from Activities Involved in Provision of Goods or Performance of Other Services

This is the October 2015 Edition of the TMEP

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1301.01(a)(iii)    Sufficiently Distinct from Activities Involved in Provision of Goods or Performance of Other Services

In determining whether an activity is sufficiently separate from an applicant’s principal activity to constitute a service, the examining attorney must first ascertain the nature of the applicant’s principal activity under the mark in question (i.e., the performance of a service or the provision of a tangible product). The examining attorney must then determine whether the activity identified in the application is in any material way a different kind of economic activity than what any provider of that particular product or service normally provides. In re Landmark Commc'ns, Inc., 204 USPQ 692, 695 (TTAB 1979). The identification of goods/services, specimen of use, or other information in the application record may indicate whether the activity identified in the application is a separately registrable service. If necessary, the examining attorney should request additional information, pursuant to 37 C.F.R. §2.61(b), to determine if the activity constitutes a service as contemplated by the Trademark Act. See TMEP §814.

For example, operating a grocery store is clearly a service. Bagging groceries for customers is not considered a separately registrable service, because this activity is normally provided to and expected by grocery store customers, and is, therefore, merely ancillary to the primary service.

Providing general information or instructions as to the purpose and uses of applicant’s goods is merely incidental to the sale of goods, not a separate consulting service. See TMEP §1301.01(b)(v).

Conducting clinical trials for one’s own pharmaceuticals is generally considered to be a normally expected and routine activity that is not separately registrable from the principal activity of providing the goods themselves because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration legally requires clinical trials as a prerequisite of pharmaceutical approval. See TMEP §1301.01(b)(vi).

Conducting a contest to promote the sale of one’s own goods or services is usually not considered a service, because it is an ordinary and routine promotional activity. See TMEP §1301.01(b)(i).

While the repair of the goods of others is a recognized service, an applicant’s guarantee of repair of its own goods generally does not constitute a separate service, because that activity is ancillary to the principal activity of providing the goods and normally expected in the trade. See TMEP §1301.01(b)(ii).

However, the fact that an activity is ancillary to a principal service or to the sale of goods does not in itself mean that it is not a separately registrable service. The statute makes no distinction between primary, incidental, or ancillary services. In re Universal Press Syndicate, 229 USPQ 638 (TTAB 1986) (licensing cartoon character found to be a separate service that was not merely incidental or necessary to larger business of magazine and newspaper cartoon strip); In re Betz Paperchem, Inc., 222 USPQ 89 (TTAB 1984) (chemical manufacturer’s feed, delivery, and storage of liquid chemical products held to constitute separate service, because applicant’s activities extend beyond routine sale of chemicals); In re Congoleum Corp., 222 USPQ 452 (TTAB 1984) (awarding prizes to retailers for purchasing applicant’s goods from distributors held to be sufficiently separate from the sale of goods to constitute a service rendered to distributors, because it confers a benefit on distributors that is not normally expected by distributors in the relevant industry); In re C.I.T. Fin. Corp., 201 USPQ 124 (TTAB 1978) (computerized financial data-processing services rendered to applicant’s loan customers held to be a registrable service, since it provides benefits that were not previously available, and is separate and distinct from the primary service of making consumer loans); In re U.S. Home Corp. of Tex., 199 USPQ 698 (TTAB 1978) (planning and laying out residential communities for others was found to be a service, because it goes above and beyond what the average individual would do in constructing and selling a home on a piece of land that he or she has purchased); In re John Breuner Co., 136 USPQ 94 (TTAB 1963) (credit services provided by a retail store constitute a separate service, since extension of credit is neither mandatory nor required in the operation of a retail establishment).

The fact that the activities are offered only to purchasers of the applicant’s primary product or service does not necessarily mean that the activity is not a service. In re Otis Eng’g Corp., 217 USPQ 278 (TTAB 1982) (quality control and quality assurance services held to constitute a registrable service even though the services were limited to applicant’s own equipment); In re John Breuner Co., 136 USPQ at 95 (credit services offered only to customers of applicant’s retail store found to be a service).

The fact that the services for which registration is sought are offered to a different class of purchasers than the purchasers of applicant’s primary product or service is also a factor to be considered. In re Forbes Inc., 31 USPQ2d 1315 (TTAB 1994); In re Home Builders Ass’n of Greenville, 18 USPQ2d 1313 (TTAB 1990).

Another factor to be considered in determining whether an activity is a registrable service is the use of a mark different from the mark used on or in connection with the applicant’s principal product or service. See In re Mitsubishi Motor Sales of Am. Inc., 11 USPQ2d 1312, 1314-15 (TTAB 1989); In re Universal Press Syndicate, 229 USPQ at 640; In re Congoleum Corp., 222 USPQ at 453-54; In re C.I.T. Fin. Corp., 201 USPQ at 126. However, an activity that is normally expected or routinely done in connection with sale of a product or another service is not a registrable service even if it is identified by a different mark. In re Dr. Pepper Co., 836 F.2d 508, 5 USPQ2d 1207 (Fed. Cir. 1987); In re Television Digest, Inc., 169 USPQ 505 (TTAB 1971). Moreover, the mark identifying the ancillary service does not have to be different from the mark identifying the applicant’s goods or primary service. Ex parte Handmacher-Vogel, Inc., 98 USPQ 413 (Comm’r Pats. 1953).