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Foreign Equivalents?

Posted in Branding, Infringement, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks, TTAB

Seems as though any trademark owner who sends a cease and desist letter is bound to be called a trademark bully by someone. In fact, the USPTO has extended the period for comments by a month with a new deadline of February 7, 2011.

If you had started selling shirts, pants, and  under the trademark and brand KAKATOO, and you received a cease and desist letter from someone selling shoes under the trademark and brand DELICIOUS, would you not be crying foul and/or applying the ever-popular label “trademark bully”?

Obviously, I don’t believe the USPTO is a trademark bully, but asking the question, and discussing some recent likelihood of confusion refusals issued by Examining Attorneys at the USPTO, I believe, helps put in perspective the recent flurry of discussion and concern of trademark bullying. It also reinforces the power of federal trademark registrations.

This is how the Examining Attorney at the USPTO initially refused registration of KAKATOO for clothing, based on a prior registration for DELICIOUS for shoes:

Applicant’s mark KAKATOO is confusingly similar to the registered mark DELICIOUS because KAKATOO is the foreign equivalent of “delicious.”

Under the doctrine of foreign equivalents, a mark in a foreign language and a mark that is its English equivalent may be held to be confusingly similar. TMEP §1207.01(b)(vi); see, e.g., In re Thomas, 79 USPQ2d 1021, 1025 (TTAB 2006); In re Hub Distrib., Inc., 218 USPQ 284 (TTAB 1983). Therefore, marks comprised of foreign words are translated into English to determine similarity in meaning and connotation with English word marks. See Palm Bay Imps., Inc. v. Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Maison Fondee en 1772,396 F.3d 1369, 1377, 73 USPQ2d 1689, 1696 (Fed. Cir. 2005). Equivalence in meaning and connotation can be sufficient to find such marks confusingly similar. See In re Thomas, 79 USPQ2d at 1025.

 

The support for this refusal is below the jump.

The doctrine is applicable when it is likely that an ordinary American purchaser would “stop and translate” the foreign term into its English equivalent. Palm Bay, 396 F.3d at 1377, 73 USPQ2d at 1696; TMEP §1207.01(b)(vi)(A). The ordinary American purchaser refers to “all American purchasers, including those proficient in a non-English language who would ordinarily be expected to translate words into English.” In re Spirits Int’l, N.V., 563 F.3d 1347, 1352, 90 USPQ2d 1489, 1492 (Fed. Cir. 2009); see In re Thomas, 79 USPQ2d at 1024 (citing J. Thomas McCarthy, McCarthy on Trademarks and Unfair Competition §23:26 (4th ed. 2006), which states “[t]he test is whether, to those American buyers familiar with the foreign language, the word would denote its English equivalent.”).

Generally, the doctrine is applied when the English translation is a literal and exact translation of the foreign wording. See In re Thomas, 79 USPQ2d at 1021 (holding MARCHE NOIR for jewelry likely to be confused with the cited mark BLACK MARKET MINERALS for retail jewelry and mineral store services where evidence showed that MARCHE NOIR is the exact French equivalent of the English idiom “Black Market,” and the addition of MINERALS did not serve to distinguish the marks); In re Ithaca Indus., Inc., 230 USPQ 702 (TTAB 1986) (holding applicant’s mark LUPO for men’s and boys’ underwear likely to be confused with the cited registration for WOLF and design for various clothing items, where LUPO is the Italian equivalent of the English word “wolf”); In re Hub Distrib., Inc., 218 USPQ at 284 (holding the Spanish wording EL SOL for clothing likely to be confused with its English language equivalent SUN for footwear where it was determined that EL SOL was the “direct foreign language equivalent” of the term SUN).

When applicant’s mark is compared to a registered mark, “the points of similarity are of greater importance than the points of difference.” Esso Standard Oil Co. v. Sun Oil Co., 229 F.2d 37, 108 USPQ 161 (D.C. Cir.), cert. denied, 351 U.S. 973, 109 USPQ 517 (1956); TMEP §1207.01(b).

The question is not whether people will confuse the marks, but whether the marks will confuse people into believing that the goods and/or services they identify come from the same source. In re West Point-Pepperell, Inc., 468 F.2d 200, 201, 175 USPQ 558, 558-59 (C.C.P.A. 1972); TMEP §1207.01(b). For that reason, the test of likelihood of confusion is not whether the marks can be distinguished when subjected to a side-by-side comparison. The question is whether the marks create the same overall impression. See Recot, Inc. v. M.C. Becton, 214 F.2d 1322, 1329-30, 54 USPQ2d 1894, 1899 (Fed. Cir. 2000); Visual Info. Inst., Inc. v. Vicon Indus. Inc., 209 USPQ 179, 189 (TTAB 1980). The focus is on the recollection of the average purchaser who normally retains a general rather than specific impression of trademarks. Chemetron Corp. v. Morris Coupling & Clamp Co., 203 USPQ 537, 540-41 (TTAB 1979); Sealed Air Corp. v. Scott Paper Co., 190 USPQ 106, 108 (TTAB 1975); TMEP §1207.01(b).

 

The marks are compared in their entireties under a Trademark Act Section 2(d) analysis. See TMEP §1207.01(b). Nevertheless, one feature of a mark may be recognized as more significant in creating a commercial impression. Greater weight is given to that dominant feature in determining whether there is a likelihood of confusion. In re Nat’l Data Corp., 753 F.2d 1056, 224 USPQ 749 (Fed. Cir. 1985); Tektronix, Inc. v. Daktronics, Inc., 534 F.2d 915, 189 USPQ 693 (C.C.P.A. 1976); In re J.M. Originals Inc., 6 USPQ2d 1393 (TTAB 1987); see TMEP §1207.01(b)(viii), (c)(ii).

 

The question is not whether people will confuse the marks, but whether the marks will confuse people into believing that the goods and/or services they identify come from the same source. In re West Point-Pepperell, Inc., 468 F.2d 200, 201, 175 USPQ 558, 558-59 (C.C.P.A. 1972); TMEP §1207.01(b). For that reason, the test of likelihood of confusion is not whether the marks can be distinguished when subjected to a side-by-side comparison. The question is whether the marks create the same overall impression. See Recot, Inc. v. M.C. Becton, 214 F.3d 1322, 1329-30, 54 USPQ2d 1894, 1899 (Fed. Cir. 2000); Visual Info. Inst., Inc. v. Vicon Indus. Inc., 209 USPQ 179, 189 (TTAB 1980). The focus is on the recollection of the average purchaser who normally retains a general rather than specific impression of trademarks. Chemetron Corp. v. Morris Coupling & Clamp Co., 203 USPQ 537, 540-41 (TTAB 1979); Sealed Air Corp. v. Scott Paper Co., 190 USPQ 106, 108 (TTAB 1975); TMEP §1207.01(b).”

 

The marks are compared in their entireties under a Trademark Act Section 2(d) analysis. See TMEP §1207.01(b). Nevertheless, one feature of a mark may be recognized as more significant in creating a commercial impression. Greater weight is given to that dominant feature in determining whether there is a likelihood of confusion. In re Nat’l Data Corp., 753 F.2d 1056, 224 USPQ 749 (Fed. Cir. 1985); Tektronix, Inc. v. Daktronics, Inc., 534 F.2d 915, 189 USPQ 693 (C.C.P.A. 1976); In re J.M. Originals Inc., 6 USPQ2d 1393 (TTAB 1987); see TMEP §1207.01(b)(viii), (c)(iiDisclaimed matter is typically less significant or less dominant when comparing marks. See In re Dixie Rests., Inc., 105 F.3d 1405, 1407, 41 USPQ2d 1531, 1533-34 (Fed. Cir. 1997); In re Nat’l Data Corp., 753 F.2d 1056, 1060, 224 USPQ 749, 752 (Fed. Cir. 1985); TMEP §1207.01(b)(viii), (c)(ii).

 

The goods and/or services of the parties need not be identical or directly competitive to find a likelihood of confusion. See Safety-Kleen Corp. v. Dresser Indus., Inc., 518 F.2d 1399, 1404, 186 USPQ 476, 480 (C.C.P.A. 1975); TMEP §1207.01(a)(i). Rather, they need only be related in some manner, or the conditions surrounding their marketing are such that they would be encountered by the same purchasers under circumstances that would give rise to the mistaken belief that the goods and/or services come from a common source. In re Total Quality Group, Inc., 51 USPQ2d 1474, 1476 (TTAB 1999); TMEP §1207.01(a)(i); see, e.g., On-line Careline Inc. v. Am. Online Inc., 229 F.3d 1080, 1086-87, 56 USPQ2d 1471, 1475-76 (Fed. Cir. 2000); In re Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe, Inc., 748 F.2d 1565, 1566-68, 223 USPQ 1289, 1290 (Fed. Cir. 1984). The decisions in the clothing field have held many different types of apparel to be related under Trademark Act Section 2(d). Cambridge Rubber Co. v. Cluett, Peabody & Co., 286 F.2d 623, 128 USPQ 549 (C.C.P.A. 1961) (women’s boots related to men’s and boys’ underwear); Jockey Int’l, Inc. v. Mallory & Church Corp., 25 USPQ2d 1233 (TTAB 1992) (underwear related to neckties); In re Melville Corp., 18 USPQ2d 1386 (TTAB 1991) (women’s pants, blouses, shorts and jackets related to women’s shoes); In re Pix of Am., Inc., 225 USPQ 691 (TTAB 1985) (women’s shoes related to outer shirts); In re Mercedes Slacks, Ltd., 213 USPQ 397 (TTAB 1982) (hosiery related to trousers); In re Cook United, Inc., 185 USPQ 444 (TTAB 1975) (men’s suits, coats, and trousers related to ladies’ pantyhose and hosiery); Esquire Sportswear Mfg. Co. v. Genesco Inc., 141 USPQ 400 (TTAB 1964) (brassieres and girdles related to slacks for men and young men).

 

Applicant’s goods include “jackets, suits, skirts, open-neck shirts, cuffs, shirts for sports, blouses, polo shirts, t-shirts, dress shirts, shawls, scarves, gloves, neckerchiefs, bandanas, muffler, hats, belts.”

Registrant’s goods are “Footwear, namely, shoes.”

Neither the application nor the registration(s) contains any limitations regarding trade channels for the goods and therefore it is assumed that registrant’s and applicant’s goods are sold everywhere that is normal for such items, i.e., clothing and department stores. Thus, it can also be assumed that the same classes of purchasers shop for these items and that consumers are accustomed to seeing them sold under the same or similar marks. See Kangol Ltd. v. KangaROOS U.S.A., Inc., 974 F.2d 161, 23 USPQ2d 1945 (Fed. Cir. 1992); In re Smith & Mehaffey, 31 USPQ2d 1531 (TTAB 1994); TMEP §1207.01(a)(iii).

 

 

The overriding concern is not only to prevent buyer confusion as to the source of the goods and/or services, but to protect the registrant from adverse commercial impact due to use of a similar mark by a newcomer. See In re Shell Oil Co., 992 F.2d 1204, 1208, 26 USPQ2d 1687, 1690 (Fed. Cir. 1993). Therefore, any doubt regarding a likelihood of confusion determination is resolved in favor of the registrant. TMEP §1207.01(d)(i); see Hewlett-Packard Co. v. Packard Press, Inc., 281 F.3d 1261, 1265, 62 USPQ2d 1001, 1003 (Fed. Cir. 2002); In re Hyper Shoppes (Ohio), Inc., 837 F.2d 463, 464-65, 6 USPQ2d 1025, 1025 (Fed. Cir. 1988).