Monday, December 06, 2004

Beauty and the Board: TTAB Says "MISS T-GIRL USA" Likely To Confuse

A potential battle between beauty pageants never got very far down the runway. In Miss Universe L.P. v. Rainbow Productions and Publications, Inc., Opposition No. 91122676 ((November 10, 2004) [not citable], the Board sustained a Section 2(d) opposition to registration of the mark MISS T-GIRL USA ("T-GIRL" disclaimed) for "entertainment services in the nature of promoting and conducting gay beauty pageants," finding the mark likely to cause confusion with the registered marks MISS USA and MISS TEEN USA for entertainment services, namely, the presentation of beauty pageants.

The Board found MISS USA and MISS TEEN USA to be "well-known" marks "deserving of a wide scope of protection," in view of decades of use, a "great deal of money" spent on advertising and marketing, and wide media exposure.

According to the Board, the marks at issue are similar in sound and appearance, since they begin with MISS and end with USA. Moreover, Opposer owns a "family" of "MISS . . . USA" marks licensed for use in all 50 states, the name of the state being sandwiched between MISS and USA. As to the services, the Board perceptively recognized that they "would not be identical," but found them to be "similar and related."

The Board noted that "no evidence was properly made of record showing the meaning of the 'T-Girl' portion of applicant's mark." Indeed, Applicant Rainbow apparently did nothing more than file an answer to the notice of opposition: it did not take testimony, offer evidence, or file a brief. That, of course, is not the way to win a beauty contest before the TTAB.

Opposer also asserted a Section 43(c) dilution claim, but the Board declined to rule on it. While it seems highly unlikely that Rainbow will appeal, perhaps the Board (in the interest of judicial economy) should have ruled on the dilution claim as well -- just in case its Section 2(d) ruling is overturned on appeal. Instead, the Board followed its usual practice of avoiding dilution rulings whenever possible.


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