TMEP 809.01(b)(iii): Words from Dead or Obscure Languages

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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809.01(b)(iii)    Words from Dead or Obscure Languages

It is generally not necessary to translate words from dead or obscure languages. Cf. Gen. Cigar Co. v. G.D.M. Inc., 988 F. Supp. 647, 660-61, 45 USPQ2d 1481, 1491-92 (S.D.N.Y. 1997) (finding applicant had no obligation to disclose that the term COHIBA for cigars means "tobacco" in the language of the Taino Indians in the Dominican Republic, because cigar smokers in the United States would not be aware of such a meaning).  See TMEP §§1207.01(b)(vi) and 1209.03(g) regarding the applicability of the doctrine of foreign equivalents to words from dead or obscure languages.  The determination of whether a language is "dead" must be made on a case by case basis, based upon the meaning that the term would have to the relevant purchasing public.

Example:  Latin is generally considered a dead language.  However, if there is evidence that a Latin term is still in use by the relevant purchasing public (e.g., if the term appears in news articles), then a Latin term is not considered dead.  The same analysis should be applied to other uncommon languages.