TMEP 1306.05(g)(ii): Considerations When the Proposed Mark Contains a Geographic Designation but Is Not a Geographic Certification Mark

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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1306.05(g)(ii)    Considerations When the Proposed Mark Contains a Geographic Designation but Is Not a Geographic Certification Mark

When the application is for a mark that contains a geographic designation but is not a geographic certification mark, the examining attorney should consider citing not only any prior mark with distinctive elements (e.g., suggestive, arbitrary, or fanciful wording, or distinctive design elements) that are confusingly similar to those in the applied-for mark, but also any prior geographic certification mark containing a geographic designation that is confusingly similar to the geographic designation in the applied-for mark. Even if the geographic designation in the applied-for mark is not the dominant element, is relatively inconspicuous, or appears with a number of other elements, it may nonetheless be appropriate to cite a prior geographic certification mark that contains the same designation. By contrast, if there are no prior geographic certification marks containing the geographic designation, but there are numerous prior trademarks or service marks that contain and disclaim the designation, then a §2(d) refusal based on the fact that the respective marks share the designation is likely not appropriate.

As an example of the analysis when a prior geographic certification mark is involved, consider an applied-for mark that is used as a trademark for fresh bamboo shoots, consisting of the wording ZZZ BAMBOO in large lettering appearing above EVERGLADES in small lettering (with BAMBOO and EVERGLADES disclaimed). A potential cite might be a geographic certification mark consisting of the wording CERTIFIED EVERGLADES BAMBOO (with CERTIFIED and BAMBOO disclaimed), which certifies that live bamboo plants originate in the Everglades. Citing the prior geographic certification mark, and only that mark, may be appropriate even if there are also a few prior trademarks that contain the word EVERGLADES and are applied to bamboo products.

Of course, if other matter in the applied-for mark changes the commercial impression of a geographic designation (e.g., GEORGE WASHINGTON FRUITS vs. WASHINGTON STATE RAISINS), then that factor would weigh against citing prior marks containing the geographic term. See TMEP §1207.01(b)(iii).

Confusion as to sponsorship, affiliation, or connection may be likely even when the applicant’s goods or services have been certified by the owner of the certification mark or would otherwise be considered genuine. See Institute Nat’l Des Appellations d’Origine v. Brown-Forman Corp., 47 USPQ2d 1875, 1890-91 (TTAB 1998). Thus, the mere fact that the applied-for mark is, or will be, applied to goods or services that originate in the relevant geographic region covered by a confusingly similar registered certification mark, and otherwise meet the certification standards of the registrant, is not, by itself, sufficient to overcome a §2(d) refusal. See id. at 1889-91.