Thursday, December 23, 2004

TTAB Socks It To Norwegian Skier Vegard Ulvang

Norwegian cross-country skiing champion Vegard Ulvang veered off course in his attempt to register the mark ULVANG for "socks." The Board affirmed a Section 2(e)(4) refusal to register, finding the mark to be primarily merely a surname. In re Ulvang, Serial No. 78160641 (December 15, 2004) [not citable].

Applicant acknowledged that "Ulvang" is his surname, that it has no dictionary meaning, and that it has no geographical significance or meaning in a foreign language. But he contended that "Ulvang" is "a particularly rare surname" in the USA, since only 15 listings for the name appear in the PowerFinder database, that "Ulvang" does not have the look and sound of a surname, and that "due to the connection between Applicant's mark ULVANG and the specific goods at issue, namely, 'socks,' the term 'Ulvang' does not create the impression of being a surname." [Apparently Applicant was alluding to his own fame as a cross-country skier and a marketer of socks in his native Norway.]

The Board looked to the usual factors in considering this Section 2(e)(4) refusal. It noted that several NEXIS stories refer to individuals named Ulvang, that those individuals and the 15 whose residential listings appear in the PowerFinder database are spread across the country, that (in the Board's subjective judgment) "Ulvang" has the "look and sound" of a surname, that it is indeed Applicant's surname, and that the word has no other meaning. The Board concluded that:
"even if ULVANG is a rare surname, this does not mean that its surname significance would not be recognized by a substantial number of members of the general public."
Curiously, the record was apparently devoid of evidence that Applicant Vegard Ulvang and the Norwegian skier are one and the same person:
"It is noteworthy that several of the excerpted stories include information about Vegard Ulvang, an Olympic gold medal winner in cross-country skiing."
In any case, although Mr. Ulvang owns a Norwegian registration for his mark, he will have to develop secondary meaning in this country if he wants to win the red seal and blue ribbon attached to a U.S. trademark registration certificate.


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