How To Show Acquired Distinctiveness Under 2(f):
Conclusive and Persuasive (and not Biased) Evidence
Affidavits or declarations may be relevant but not necessarily conclusive in showing acquired distinctiveness, the identity of the person making the declaration or affidavit matters as well as the actual evidence being produced. Conclusionary statements without factual basis for those statements are not persuasive or conclusive. Note that the cases cited within these sections of the TMEP are ex parte appeals (‘In re’) of descriptiveness (final) refusals (Section 2(e)(1)).
TMEP 1212.06(a) Long Use of the Mark in Commerce
Long use of the mark in commerce is one relevant factor to consider in determining whether a mark has acquired distinctiveness. See In re Uncle Sam Chem. Co., 229 USPQ 233, 235 (TTAB 1986) (finding §2(f) claim of acquired distinctiveness of SPRAYZON for “cleaning preparations and degreasers for industrial and institutional use” persuasive where applicant had submitted declaration of its president supporting sales figures and attesting to over eighteen years of substantially exclusive and continuous use); In re Packaging Specialists, Inc., 221 USPQ 917, 920 (TTAB 1984) (finding evidence submitted by applicant insufficient to establish acquired distinctiveness of PACKAGING SPECIALISTS, INC., for contract packaging services, notwithstanding, inter alia, continuous and substantially exclusive use for sixteen years, deemed “a substantial period but not necessarily conclusive or persuasive”).
To support a §2(f) claim, use of the mark must be use in commerce, as defined in 15 U.S.C. §1127.
TMEP 1212.06(c) Affidavits or Declarations Asserting Recognition of Mark as Source Indicator
Affidavits or declarations that assert recognition of the mark as a source indicator are relevant in establishing acquired distinctiveness. However, the value of the affidavits or declarations depends on the statements made and the identity of the affiant or declarant. See In re Chem. Dynamics Inc., 839 F.2d 1569, 1571, 5 USPQ2d 1828, 1830 (Fed. Cir. 1988) (finding conclusionary declaration from applicant’s vice-president insufficient without the factual basis for the declarant’s belief that the design had become distinctive). Proof of distinctiveness also requires more than proof of the existence of a relatively small number of people who associate a mark with the applicant. See In re The Paint Prods. Co., 8 USPQ2d 1863, 1866 (TTAB 1988) (“Because these affidavits were sought and collected by applicant from ten customers who have dealt with applicant for many years, the evidence is not altogether persuasive on the issue of how the average customer for paints perceives the words ‘PAINT PRODUCTS CO.’ in conjunction with paints and coatings.”); see also Mag Instrument Inc. v. Brinkmann Corp., 96 USPQ2d 1701, 1723 (TTAB 2010) (finding sixteen declarations of little persuasive value, as they were nearly identical in wording and only one of the declarants was described as an end consumer); In re Gray Inc., 3 USPQ2d 1558, 1560 (TTAB 1987) (finding affidavit of applicant’s counsel expressing his belief that the mark has acquired secondary meaning of “no probative value whatsoever” because, among other reasons, the statement is subject to bias); In re Petersen Mfg. Co., 2 USPQ2d 2032, 2035 (TTAB 1987) (finding declarations from customers which stated that designs used by applicant indicate to the declarant that the applicant is the source of the goods, but which did not refer to or identify the designs with any specificity, not persuasive); In re Bose Corp., 216 USPQ 1001, 1005 (TTAB 1983), aff’d, 772 F.2d 866, 227 USPQ 1 (Fed. Cir. 1985) (deeming retailer’s statement that he has been in contact with many purchasers of loudspeaker systems of whom a substantial number would recognize the depicted design as originating with applicant competent evidence of secondary meaning); In re Flex-O-Glass, Inc., 194 USPQ 203, 206 (TTAB 1977) (“[T]he fact that the affidavits may be similar in format and expression is of no particular significance ... since the affiants have sworn to the statements contained therein.”).
TMEP 1212.05(c) Use “as a Mark”
The substantially exclusive and continuous use must be “as a mark.” 15 U.S.C. §1052(f). See In re Craigmyle, 224 USPQ 791, 793 (TTAB 1984) (finding registrability under §2(f) not established by sales over a long period of time where there was no evidence that the subject matter had been used as a mark); In re Kwik Lok Corp., 217 USPQ 1245, 1248 (TTAB 1983) (holding declarations as to sales volume and advertising expenditures insufficient to establish acquired distinctiveness. “The significant missing element in appellant’s case is evidence persuasive of the fact that the subject matter has been used as a mark.”).
Not Just Patents can develop a declaration or affidavit of acquired distinctiveness for use with your trademark application (if the facts will support it). Each case before the trademark examiner and/or the TTAB on appeal is dependent on the facts of the particular mark and there is no guarantee that a mark that is refused for being descriptive under Section 2(e)(1) can be registered on the Principal Register. Call us or email us with questions, the sooner the better since trademarks are only guaranteed one nonfinal refusal, answering a final refusal requires requesting reconsideration and may require filing an appeal in order to be heard.
Sources of Evidence for USPTO Merely Descriptive Refusals
(extracted from USPTO Office Actions)
Internet: Material obtained from the Internet is generally accepted as competent evidence in examination and ex parte proceedings. See In re Rodale Inc., 80 USPQ2d 1696, 1700 (TTAB 2006) (Internet evidence accepted by the Board to show genericness); In re White, 80 USPQ2d 1654, 1662 (TTAB 2006) (Internet evidence accepted by the Board to show false connection); In re Joint-Stock Co. “Baik”, 80 USPQ2d 1305, 1308-09 (TTAB 2006) (Internet evidence accepted by the Board to show geographic significance); Fram Trak Indus. v. WireTracks LLC, 77 USPQ2d 2000, 2006 (TTAB 2006) (Internet evidence accepted by the Board to show relatedness of goods); In re Consol. Specialty Rest. Inc., 71 USPQ2d 1921, 1927-29 (TTAB 2004) (Internet evidence accepted by the Board to show that geographic location is well-known for particular goods); In re Gregory, 70 USPQ2d 1792, 1793 (TTAB 2004) (Internet evidence accepted by the Board to show surname significance); In re Fitch IBCA Inc., 64 USPQ2d 1058, 1060 (Internet evidence accepted by the Board to show descriptiveness); TBMP §1208.03; TMEP §710.01(b).
Text-search databases: Material obtained from computerized text-search databases, such as LEXISNEXIS®, is generally accepted as competent evidence in examination and ex parte proceedings. See In re Boulevard Entm’t Inc., 334 F.3d 1336, 1342-43, 67 USPQ2d 1475, 1479 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (LEXISNEXIS® evidence accepted by the Court to show the offensive nature of a term); In re Giger, 78 USPQ2d 1405, 1407 (TTAB 2006) (LEXISNEXIS® evidence accepted by the Board to show surname significance); In re Lamb-Weston Inc., 54 USPQ2d 1190, 1192 (TTAB 2000) (LEXISNEXIS® evidence accepted by the Board to show descriptiveness); In re Wada, 48 USPQ2d 1689, 1690 (TTAB 1998) (LEXISNEXIS® evidence accepted by the Board to show that geographic location is well-known for particular goods); In re Decombe, 9 USPQ2d 1812, 1815 (TTAB 1988) (LEXISNEXIS® evidence accepted by the Board to show relatedness of goods in a likelihood of confusion determination); TBMP §1208.01; TMEP §710.01(a).
Third-party registrations: Third-party registrations featuring the same or similar goods and/or services as applicant’s goods and/or services are probative evidence on the issue of descriptiveness where the relevant word or term is disclaimed, registered under Trademark Act Section 2(f) based on a showing of acquired distinctiveness, or registered on the Supplemental Register. See Sweats Fashions, Inc. v. Pannill Knitting Co., 833 F.2d 1560, 1564-65, 4 USPQ2d 1793, 1797 (Fed. Cir. 1987); In re Box Solutions Corp., 79 USPQ2d 1953, 1955 (TTAB 2006); In re Finisar Corp., 78 USPQ2d 1618, 1621 (TTAB 2006).