Will the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grant a federal Trademark/Service Mark Registration for the term “Lexington?” It depends on the goods or services with which the Trademark or Service Mark are associated.
The Statutory Law
15 United States Code (U.S.C.) Section 1052, in part, reads:
No trademark by which the goods of the applicant may be distinguished from the goods of others shall be refused registration on the principal register on account of its nature unless it—
(e) Consists of a mark which, (1) when used on or in connection with the goods of the applicant is merely descriptive or deceptively misdescriptive of them, (2) when used on or in connection with the goods of the applicant is primarily geographically descriptive of them, except as indications of regional origin may be registrable under section 1054 of this title, (3) when used on or in connection with the goods of the applicant is primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive of them, (4) is primarily merely a surname, or (5) comprises any matter that, as a whole, is functional.
When certain facts are in evidence, under 15 U.S.C. Section 1052(e), the Trademark Examiner can reject the Applicant’s Application as “primarily geographically descriptive.”
The USPTO Examiner’s Geographically Descriptive Marks – Test
The Examiner is to consider:
- (1) the primary significance of the mark is a generally known geographic location
- (2) the goods or services originate in the place identified in the mark; and
- (3) purchasers would be likely to believe that the goods or services originate in the geographic place identified in the mark. Note: If the mark is remote or obscure, the public is unlikely to make a goods/place or services/place association.
Illustration 1 – Refusal
The Owner of a Lexington, Kentucky restaurant filed an Application for Registration in the USPTO for “The Lexington” for restaurant services
Pursuant to the USPTO test, the Examiner would argue that “The Lexington” for restaurant services is “primarily geographically descriptive” and refuse registration of the Service Mark.
Illustration 2 – Approval
The Owner of a Lexington, Kentucky banana store filed an Application for Registration in the USPTO for “Lexington” for bananas
Pursuant to the USPTO test and the case law, the name of a geographic location that has no significant relation to commercial activities or the production of the relevant goods or services, such as Lexington for bananas, is treated as an arbitrary mark because it is unlikely that consumers would believe that the mark identifies the place from which the goods originate. The Examiner would likely conclude that the Trademark “Lexington” for bananas sold by the Lexington banana store should be granted.
Illustration 3 – Refusal
The Owner of a Lexington, Kentucky saddlery shop filed an Application for Registration in the USPTO for “Lexington” for saddles, bridles, and other equipment for horses
Pursuant to the USPTO test, the Examiner would argue that “Lexington” for saddles, bridles, and other equipment for horses is “primarily geographically descriptive” and refuse registration of the Trademark because Lexington, Kentucky is world renown for thoroughbred horses.
For Applicants, the federal registration process can be somewhat confusing. By way of illustration, when a potentially “geographically descriptive” mark overcomes the 15 U.S.C. Section 1052(e) bar to registration, the applicant must still overcome the 15 U.S.C. § 1052 Sec. 2 (d) “likelihood of confusion” bar and other 15 U.S.C. § 1052 bars to registration.
Business Patent Law, PLLC assists companies and individuals with the procurement and management of their Intellectual Property portfolios.
If your enterprise needs legal assistance procuring/managing/enforcing your Patent Applications, Patents, Copyrights or Trademarks/Service Marks, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC.
Business Patent Law, PLLC provides intellectual property and business counsel for businesses and companies.
If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your business and intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.