Monday, February 11, 2013

Think you have a good business name?: On primarily geographically misdescriptive trade names.

Generally, a trade name ("mark") that is geographically descriptive cannot gain federal trademark protection under the Lanham Act. There is an exception for wine products, however, and marks that are geographically descriptive can gain federal trademark protection upon showing secondary meaning.

A mark is considered geographically descriptive if the primary significance of the mark is a generally known geographic location, the goods or services originate in the place identified with the mark, and consumers would be likely to believe that the goods or services originate in the geographic place identified with the mark. Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP) § 1210.01(a) (October 2012).

If the geographic location is remote or obscure, the mark may not be rejected on the basis of geographic descriptiveness. Consumers are not likely to make associations with particular geographic areas when the location is remote or obscure. Id.

When looking at a mark for primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive marks, it is the same inquiry as geographic descriptiveness, with two additions. First, the goods or services must not originate in the geographic location described. Second, the misrepresentation of origin is likely to be a material factor in consumers' decisions to purchase the goods or services. TMEP § 1210.01(b).

If you have a business suggesting a connection with a particular geographic origin, it generally cannot receive federal trademark protection. It is not uncommon for me to see business names that falsely suggest a connection with a particular geographic area, because the proprietor wants his or her consumers to see his goods or services as originating from a certain area. If the geographic misdescription is a material factor in consumers' decisionmaking regarding the goods or services, that is precisely the type of proprietor the United States Patent and Trademark Office intends to permanently refuse federal trademark protection.

No comments:

Post a Comment