If you have heard of Penn State, you have probably heard the phrase “Happy Valley.” The school, the students, and the media regularly use “Happy Valley” in reference to the school and the surrounding community. The school considers the association so strong that Penn State recently applied to register HAPPY VALLEY as a trademark for clothing – and received a refusal to register.

The Trademark Office examining attorney assigned to the application refused registration on the ground the phrase “Happy Valley” is geographically descriptive. This means that the examining attorney concluded the public will see the phrase simply as describing the geographic area where the school is located. The school’s own website seems to confirm the examining attorney’s concerns, as it describes “Happy Valley” as an “also known as” name for the town, State College.

But don’t worry Penn State fans. The university has a strong chance to overcome the refusals so long as Penn State can demonstrate the HAPPY VALLEY trademark has acquired distinctiveness in the minds of consumers. Marks that may initially be considered geographically descriptive or may become distinctive after sufficient use of the mark in commerce.

For example, use of a trademark for five years or longer may be sufficient to overcome a refusal on this ground. In fact, the examining attorney expressly references this option in the Office Action. Accordingly, chances are good Penn State can overcome this refusal simply by submitting a declaration that the university has used the mark in commerce for more than five years. However, the Trademark Office will also consider other evidence such as widespread advertising efforts, significant sales numbers, and substantial media attention and publicity.

As a fellow alum of a Big Ten university (which university isn’t important), I wanted to provide some assistance in gathering evidence in support of Penn State’s potential claim of acquired distinctiveness for the HAPPY VALLEY trademark.

If you’ve heard of Penn State, you know they receive a lot of publicity for their college sports teams. For example, this ESPN article prominently uses HAPPY VALLEY to refer to Penn State with its headline “Iowa silences No. 5 Penn State in Happy Valley.”

The Penn State wrestling program is also among the best in the country. Historically, the Happy Valley-based wrestling squad has the third-most successful program in the country, with 8 (!!) NCAA national championships , just slightly trailing Iowa’s 23 national championships.

Last, but certainly not least, Penn State can point to a visit last month from the Big Ten Tournament Champions and presumptive NCAA ’s basketball player of the year Megan Gustafson. Yet again Penn State received some great publicity associating the claimed HAPPY VALLEY mark with the University, as media ran with the headline “Iowa Cruises in Happy Valley.”

With all this evidence, Penn State fans should feel good about the likelihood they’ll soon be able to purchase HAPPY VALLEY t-shirts with a ® symbol adjacent to the phrase (exclusively from a licensed retailer). Of course, if they need more evidence, I’m sure I can find some fellow Big Ten organizations that would be happy to add some new headlines in 2019.

The New Year will be ringing in a brand new trademark truncation, ironically caused by a recent expansion.

Just so you know, it’s not a new type of Gatorade (G01, G2, and G03), excuse me, G.

So, what can this latest trademark truncation represent?

 

Apparently, the truncating trademark owner has not yet secured the most obvious domain, www.b1g.com, because it’s for sale, by someone apparently located in Russia.

Answer below the jump.

Continue Reading Trademark Truncation Alert: B1G

–Dan Kelly, Attorney

I think Steve once remarked something to the effect that the Internet is employment security for trademark attorneys.  Road tripping is too.  On one such recent occasion, my wife remarked on the similarity of Culver’s blue oval signage to Ford’s famous blue oval.

Obviously, there is no issue here from a trademark infringement standpoint.  Culver’s is clearly in the fast food business, and Ford is an automotive company.  No, the intrigue for me was how I started seeing blue ovals everywhere!  First was Carrier:

Then I noticed the Nasonex logo on a note on my desk from a promotional notepad:

Then the one that put me over the edge, the one that has now made me believe that there is a proverbial vast right-wing marketing conspiracy to toy subliminally with my latent positive associations with blue ovals:  Malt-o-Meal.

As if this were not enough, Brad, reading over my shoulder, suggested I take a look at American Idol:

Yikes!  What’s more, Brad pointed out that Ford is a major sponsor of American Idol!

Joking aside, isn’t it kind of interesting that of these examples, several use a light line to help outline the oval?  From a design standpoint, it seems to enhance the overall shape and clarity of the designs that use it.  I have a secret hope that there is some James Burke-esque “Connections” link in the depths of humanity’s art history that might explain the blue oval phenomenon.  I wonder how many marketing surveys exist that show positive associations with blue ovals?  Is this just a case of sensitivity on my part to the phenomenon, or could I find similar phenomena with, say, green triangles?

While you lose sleep (or not) over these questions, feel free to pass the time running Internet searches for the words “blue oval” to see which of these blue ovals might claim to be the blue oval.  (Hints here here here here here and here.)

UPDATE:  The hits keep coming: