TTAB Reverses Disclaimer Requirement of "TELECHAT" for Dating Services
The PTO dialed a wrong number in requiring Applicant TelechaT Network, Inc. to disclaim the word TELECHAT in its mark shown below [NETWORK disclaimed] for "telephone and on-line dating service allowing participants to select, obtain and provide information and communicate with potential companions." In re TelechaT Network, Inc. , Serial No. 76535248 (May 11, 2006) [not citable].
The Examining Attorney relied on dictionary definitions of "tele" and "chat," and on several database and Internet printouts that included the term "telechat." The rest of the PTO's evidence comprised newswire reports and Internet and database articles from Canada, Israel, and Australia. The Board found the foreign evidence unhelpful, distinguishing this situation from that of In re Remacle, 66 USPQ2d 1222 (TTAB 2002) [evidence from English language website in Great Britain held admissible where professionals in the field would likely monitor foreign websites]:
"In this case, we do not think that potential users of applicant's telephone and online dating services are as likely to refer to foreign publications and newswire services and, therefore, the significance of the term in Israel, Australia, and even Canada, is less significant [sic] in helping us arrive at a conclusion as to the descriptiveness of the term in the United States."
In light of the evidence, the Board expressed doubt as to the descriptiveness of the term TELECHAT, and it resolved that doubt (as it must) in Applicant's favor. It observed that, although the telephone has been around for more than 100 years and although the Internet is no longer a novelty, there was little evidence that consumers would understand that the PTO's suggested meaning (to communicate with potential companions) is the one that would "immediately come to mind when these consumers encounter the term."
"While consumers may understand that the term can mean using the telephone to converse in an easy, familiar manner with potential companions, it is not at all clear that consumers will draw this conclusion. *** When the terms are combined, they create a term that appears nebulous and non-specific."
The Board therefore reversed the disclaimer requirement.
TTABlog comment: I am a bit uneasy with this one. It seems to me that the Board considered the mark in the abstract and not in relation to Applicant's services. If someone offered me TELECHAT brand "telephone dating services" that allow me to "communicate with potential companions," I think I would know exactly what TELECHAT means: I would be able to communicate with potential companions by telephone. That doesn't seem very nebulous to me. The fact that Applicant may be one of the few, or even the only, entity using the term is irrelevant. See, e.g., In re Zanova, Inc., 59 USPQ2d 1300 (TTAB 2001).
Text Copyright John L. Welch 2006.