Thursday, September 08, 2005

TTAB Finds "SING-A-LONG" Generic for Karaoke Players

In a less than convincing decision, the Board affirmed a refusal to register the term SING-A-LONG on the Supplemental Register, finding it to be generic for "karaoke players." In re Mana-Tee Concepts USA, LLC,Serial No. 76518416 (August 24, 2005) [not citable].

Applicant's specimen of use
Click on photo for larger view

The Examining Attorney submitted Internet evidence showing use of such phrases as "Sing-Along Player/Recorder," "Singalong Microphone," and "sing-a-long tape" in connection with various karaoke equipment. The Board was convinced that "karaoke players are also known as 'sing-a-long' karaoke or cassette players." It noted that "Karaoke" is defined as a Japanese word meaning "a device that plays instrumental accompaniments for a selection of songs to which the user sings along and that records the user's singing with the music." [emphasis in original].

"Therefore, Applicant's term emphasizes to purchasers not familiar with the Japanese word that 'Karaoke' is a sing-a-long device. 'Sing-a-long' is an alternative English generic term that makes clear what a 'karaoke' player is."

The Board noted that "Shoppers at are directed to: 'Karaoke Equipment>Sing Along,'" and that another website "clearly uses the term generically" when it displays the phrase "Care Bears Sing-Along Player/Recorder," which one may use to record "your performances in your sing-along recorder," using a "sing-along microphone." Applicant's own specimen used the term "Sing-A-Long & Record with two Detachable Microphones." According to the Board, this evidence "clearly supports the conclusion that purchasers would understand the term 'Sing-A-Long' to primarily refer to the genus of the goods." [The Board never clearly defined what that genus was].

Applicant purportedly admitted that "sing-along" is a "non-registrable generic term," but it feebly argued that its variation in spelling suffices for registration on the Supplemental Register. The Board quickly pulled the plug on that assertion, noting, inter alia, that a misspelling of a generic term is still generic.

The Board therefore concluded that SING-A-LONG is generic.

TTABlog comment: The finding on this record that "SING-A-LONG" is generic is rather troublesome, since nothing in the PTO's evidence showed use of the term "SING-A-LONG" as a noun -- only as a a verb or as an adjective modifying "karaoke," or "player," or "microphone" or other nouns. Although "karaoke" may be a word of Japanese origin, it has surely been absorbed into the language of the average American consumer. Indeed, the PTO allowed use of the term "karaoke" in Applicant's identification of goods. If the term were not commonly understood in this country, surely the PTO would have required clarification. Therefore, the Board’s assertion that “’Sing-a-long’ is an alternative English generic term that makes clear "what a 'karaoke' player is" seems dubious.

Moreover, the supposed admission of genericness made by Applicant is muddy at best, which is probably why the Board relied on other evidence to support its affirmance.

SING-A-LONG certainly is highly descriptive of karaoke players, and is widely used to describe various electronic devices. In light of this usage, the term should be unregistrable even on the Supplemental Register because it is not capable of distinguishing Applicant's goods -- the requisite exclusivity could not possibly be established. Perhaps the Board felt compelled to find genericness - rather than allow this highly descriptive term to be added to the Supplemental Register -- because that was the only ground on which the PTO had refused registration.

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2005


Post a Comment

<< Home