Trademark Registrations

Trademark types frequently encounter brand owners and managers with substantial misunderstanding and confusion about when use of the federal registration notice symbol is lawful. Most of the time a misuse or technical violation results from an honest mistake, but sometimes the misuse is, and starts out intentional, or perhaps the misuse begins to look intentional if it isn’t promptly

–Sharon Armstrong, Attorney

CityCenter Land, LLC, a subsidiary of MGM-Mirage, owns nine trademark registrations for VDARA, the name of one of the newest resorts in Las Vegas. Vdara is an all-suite building, has a spa, a restaurant, no casino gaming, and is non-smoking.

It even has a “death ray.”

Local and national news outlets and

If you don’t mind the wait, a crowded parking lot is often a good strategy when hunting for an excellent restaurant while you’re in unfamiliar territory. Similarly, a large crowd lining up outside a retail store is typically a good sign that the business is doing something right, or perhaps, they just happen to have something rare that everyone wants.

–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,

Thumbnail for version as of 15:21, 6 September 2009A lot can be learned from the easily searched trademark registrations existing on the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s online database. For example, Examining Attorneys at the USPTO will refuse registration based on prior confusingly similar registered marks, so responsible trademark owners will conduct the necessary searching and due diligence prior to adoption and first use. In addition, because searching the USPTO’s database can yield readily available evidence on a number of substantive issues important to trademark types and brand owners, third-party trademark registrations are a very tempting tool to use to try to prove a point.

As frustrating as it can be to trademark types and the brand owners they represent, third-party registrations cannot be used as legal precedent to try and compel a certain result. Such attempts easily are rebuffed at the USPTO since each application must be decided on its own merits and one Examining Attorney is not bound by the "mistakes" that may have been made by other Examining Attorneys at the USPTO. As a result, although consistency is a goal at the USPTO, it can be rather elusive at times. Having said that, third-party trademark registration evidence can have evidentiary value, if used properly, and the valid and acceptable use of third-party registration evidence has grown over time.

Third-party registrations have been considered relevant and probative in establishing a number of different and important trademark issues, including at least:

  1. The likely meaning of a mark to consumers. Tektronix, Inc. v. Daktronics, Inc., 534 F.2d 915 (CCPA 1976). 
  2. That goods or services are of a type that consumers may believe emanate from a single source. In re Albert Trostel & Sons Co., 29 USPQ2d 1783, 1785 (TTAB 1993).
  3. The likely meaning of a mark to consumers, i.e., whether it is merely descriptive or suggestive. Plus Products v. Star-Kist Foods, Inc., 220 USPQ 541 (TTAB 1983).
  4. That a mark is relatively weak and that consumers will rely on other matter to distinguish between marks. Palm Bay Imports, Inc. v. Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Maison Fondee En 1772, 396 F.3d 1369 (CAFC 2005).
  5. The existence of a relevant industry practice. Stuart Spector Designs, Ltd. et al. v. Fender Musical Instrument Corporation, 2009 WL 804142 (TTAB March 25, 2009) (finding the third-party registrations for guitar body designs supported the applicant’s position that the USPTO recognizes guitar body designs as capable of indicating source and the industry’s practice of registering guitar body designs); In re The Black & Decker Corp., 81 USPQ2d 1841 (TTAB 2006) (finding industry practice to use key head design as source indicator).

A couple of days ago I posted about a trademark specimen case, one where I was hoping the TTAB would expand the valid use of third-party registration evidence, but unfortunately, the TTAB did not acknowledge or address the third-party trademark registration evidence that was submitted (along with the specimens of use supporting those standard character word-only trademark registrations). Perhaps someone else can benefit from these thoughts in arguing for additional expanded use of third-party registrations in their trademark registration cases.

Continue Reading The Relevance of Third-Party Trademark Registrations

–Sharon Armstrong, Attorney

Lest you think this post is just an excuse to post the ridiculously viral video of The Muppets singing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” guess again.  There is a trademark lesson here.


Do I still have your attention?  The lesson is this – you, the consumer, don’t need to know what the source of