–Sharon Armstrong, Attorney
California media outlets reported yesterday that Oakland recently joined a boycott against Arizona due to the latter state’s passage of a new immigration bill, which requires police to question people about their immigration status if there’s reason to suspect they’re in the country illegally. Other cities considering boycotts include Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The boycotts include calls to stop purchasing goods and services from companies located or based in Arizona. A recent article in Gawker listed some enterprises that might be affected by individuals who choose to boycott, including P.F. Changs restaurants, the GoDaddy domain name registrar, and the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, among others.
The aforementioned businesses are located in Arizona and therefore, whether one believes such a boycott is a bold reaction to the law or is just plain wrong, they are correctly included in boycott lists. Some products and businesses, however, may feel an economic pinch that they don’t deserve – particularly businesses that seem to be based in Arizona but actually have no connection to the state whatsoever.
The most-discussed example thus far is the Arizona Iced Tea, the makers of which own four trademark registrations for or incorporating ARIZONA for use in connection with iced tea beverages. Arizona Iced Tea is made in New York.
The Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure provides that a mark should be refused registration if it consists of matter that is primarily geographically descriptive of the goods and services offered under the mark (e.g., CALIFORNIA CLOTHIERS for tailoring services based in California) or is primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive of them (e.g. KETCHIKAN SALMON SURPRISE for frozen salmon entrees originating from the Atlantic ocean and not from Ketchikan, Alaska). In determining whether a mark is primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive, the Trademark Office looks to whether (1) the primary significance of the mark is a generally known geographic location, (2) the goods or services do not originate in the place identified in the mark, (3) purchasers would be likely to believe that the goods or services originate in the geographic place identified in the mark, and (4) the misrepresentation is a material factor in a significant portion of the relevant consumer’s decision to buy the goods or use the services.
Here, the Trademark Office registered the ARIZONA trademarks on the Principal Register, thereby indicating that it did not find the ARIZONA trademarks to be either primarily geographically descriptive or primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive of iced tea goods. This would seem to be cold comfort, however, if consumers ultimately boycott this non-Arizona product.