1301.04(f)(ii) Associate the Mark with the Identified Services
The specimen must show the mark used in a manner that creates in the minds of potential consumers a direct association between the mark and the services. In re Universal Oil Prods. Co., 476 F.2d 653, 655, 177 USPQ 456, 457 (C.C.P.A. 1973) ("The minimum requirement is some direct association between the offer of services and the mark sought to be registered therefor."); see also In re JobDiva, Inc.,843 F.3d 836, 942, 121 USPQ2d 1122, 1126 (Fed. Cir.2016) (noting that the question of whether consumers would associate registrant’s mark with the identified services, when each step of the services is performed by software, is a factual determination involving case-specific factors); In re Adver. & Mktg. Dev., Inc., 821 F.2d 614, 620, 2 USPQ2d 2010, 2014 (Fed. Cir. 1987) ("The ‘direct association’ test does not create an additional or more stringent requirement for registration; it is implicit in the statutory definition of ‘a mark used * * * to identify and distinguish the services of one person * * * from the services of others and to indicate the source of the services.’"); In re WAY Media, Inc., 118 USPQ2d 1697, 1698 (TTAB 2016) ("A specimen that shows only the mark with no reference to, or association with, the services does not show service mark usage."); In re Johnson Controls, Inc., 33 USPQ2d 1318, 1320 (TTAB 1994) ("While the nature of the services does not need to be specified in the specimens, there must be something which creates in the mind of the purchaser an association between the mark and the service activity."). Direct association is the minimum the specimen must show, and it may be established textually, contextually, or logically. In re Universal Oil Prods. Co., 476 F.2d at 655, 177 USPQ at 457. What is necessary to establish direct association differs depending on the type of specimen submitted, that is, whether it is an advertising specimen or a rendering specimen.
Mark Used in Advertising: For specimens showing the mark used in advertising the identified services, in order to establish the requisite direct association the specimen must contain a reference to the services and the mark must be used on the specimen to identify the services and their source. See In re WAY Media, Inc., 118 USPQ2d at 1698; In re Monograms Am., Inc., 51 USPQ2d 1317, 1318 (TTAB 1999). While the services need not be stated word for word, a "sufficient reference" to the services themselves or a general reference to the trade, industry, or field of use is required. See id.; In re Ralph Mantia Inc., 54 USPQ2d 1284, 1286 (TTAB 2000) (reversing the specimen refusal since the term "design" appeared on applicant’s letterhead stationery, envelope, and business cards and stating "[i]t is not necessary that the specific field of design, i.e., commercial art, also appear [on the specimen]. Here, the word ‘design’ alone is sufficient to create in the minds of purchasers an association between the mark and applicant's commercial art services."); In re Monograms Am., Inc., 51 USPQ2d at 1318; see also TMEP §1301.04(h). However, if the alleged reference to the services is so vague that the services cannot be discerned, the specimen will not be acceptable. In re Chengdu AOBI Info. Tech. Co., 111 USPQ2d 2080, 2082 (TTAB 2011); see In re Monograms Am., Inc., 51 USPQ2d at 1318. See TMEP §1301.04(i).
Mark Used in Rendering: For specimens showing the mark used in rendering the identified services, the services need not be explicitly referenced to establish the requisite direct association. See In re Metriplex, Inc., 23 USPQ2d 1315, 1316-17 (TTAB 1992) (noting that "the requirements specific to specimens which are advertising are not applicable" and finding the submitted specimens acceptable to show use of applicant’s mark in connection with data transmission services because the specimens showed "the mark as it appears on a computer terminal in the course of applicant's rendering of the service" and noting that "purchasers and users of the service would recognize [applicant’s mark], as it appears on the computer screen specimens, as a mark identifying the data transmission services which are accessed via the computer terminal"). Rather, direct association may be indicated by the context or environment in which the services are rendered, or may be inferred based on the consumer’s general knowledge of how certain services are provided or from the consumer’s prior experience in receiving the services. Id.; see In re WAY Media, Inc., 118 USPQ2d at 1698. In other words, the context in which the services are provided and consumer knowledge and experience create an inference of the services without an explicit textual reference to the services. See TMEP §1301.04(i), Example 17 (CASHFLOW UNITS).
The applicant may respond to a specimen refusal for failing to show direct association by explaining the nature of the mark’s use or the manner in which the services are advertised or rendered. In re Metriplex, Inc., 23 USPQ2d at 1316 (finding the submitted specimens acceptable based, in part, on applicant’s explanation that the specimens showed the mark as it appeared on a computer terminal in the course of rendering the services). With respect to a particular industry’s typical use of marks in relation to specific services, it may also be helpful for the applicant to provide an explanation regarding industry practice concerning the use of the mark during the rendering of such services and how the applicant’s use comports with such practice. See TMEP §1301.04(i), Example 19 (design of speech bubbles).
The mere fact that the mark is displayed and the services are explicitly referenced or can be inferred from the context of the specimen does not automatically result in direct association between the mark and the services. See In re Johnson Controls, 33 USPQ2d at 1320. The specimen must associate the mark with the services such that the mark serves as a source identifier for those particular services. See In re WAY Media, Inc., 118 USPQ2d at 1698; cf. In re Sones, 590 F.3d 1282, 1288, 93 USPQ2d 1118, 1123 (Fed. Cir. 2009) ("[T]he test for an acceptable website-based specimen, just as any other specimen, is simply that it must in some way evince that the mark is ‘associated’ with the goods and serves as an indicator of source." (emphasis added)). The requisite mark-services association is present when the specimen makes a direct link or connection between the mark and the identified services. See TMEP §1301.04(i), Example 17 (CASHFLOW UNITS) and Example 18 (RIDE 411).
Thus, a specimen is unacceptable if it fails to convey a proper nexus between the mark and the services, or if the services are too attenuated from the proposed mark, either in terms of proximity or logical connection. See, e.g., In re Metriplex, Inc., 23 USPQ2d at 1316; In re Monograms Am., Inc., 51 USPQ2d at 1319. The mere fact that wording from the identification of services appears somewhere on the specimen may not necessarily suffice for the mark-services association or nexus, if there is nothing else to connect that wording to the mark, such as proximity or additional text that establishes the connection.
When examining for the mark-services association, the examining attorney should consider the specimen’s content, layout, and overall look and feel, as well as any description of the specimen and industry practice relating to service-mark usage in advertising and rendering the services.