Monday, October 23, 2006

TTAB Squashes "NEW YORK CURRANTS," Finding It Primarily Geographically Descriptive

In 2003, when the State of New York partially lifted its ban on the growing of currants (discussed here), New York farmer Greg Quinn was a leader in the campaign to allow black currant production. Mr. Quinn was not so successful, however, in his attempt to register the mark NEW YORK CURRANTS for currants and currant-based products. The Board affirmed the PTO's Section 2(e)(2) refusal to register, finding the mark to be primarily geographically descriptive of the goods. In re Quinn, Serial No. 78271634 (September 13, 2006) [not citable].

A mark is primarily geographically descriptive under Section 2(e)(2) if its "primary significance ... is that of the name of a place generally known to the public," and if the public would make a goods/place association -- i.e., if the public would believe that the goods come from that place. Moreover, a goods/place association is presumed when the goods do in fact emanate from the place named by the mark.

Here, Applicant Quinn represented to the PTO that his business is based in New York State and that "some portion" of the goods will originate in New York. Moreover, Quinn understandably did not dispute that New York is a "geographic place generally known to the public." That was pretty much the end of the story.

Quinn did argue, however, that NEW YORK CURRANTS is not primarily geographically descriptive because it serves as a "double entendre:"

"CURRANTS, when preceded by 'New York,' 'instantly brings to mind the hipness and electricity of New York City, [and] the word CURRANT is transformed in the consumer's mind into the word CURRENT, meaning both "most recent" and "a flow of electric current."'" [TTABlog admission: there are more internal quotation marks here than I can confidently handle.]

The Board was not persuaded:

"It strains credulity, however, to contend that the connotation of NEW YORK in a mark in which NEW YORK is followed by the name of a fruit, used on containers holding the fruit, or on beverages made from the fruit, is 'Manhattan' rather than the State of New York, and that the name of the fruit is transformed into another word meaning 'both "most recent" and "a flow of electric charge."'"

The Board therefore affirmed the refusal to register.

TTABlog note: For more background information on currants, see Barney and Hummer, "History of Currant, Gooseberry, and Jostaberry Cultivation." (here)

TTABlog puns: A hat tip to Applicant Quinn for "raisin" the double entendre argument. In light of "currant" events, we can all use a bit of amusement. And I'll bet there are no "sour grapes" on Quinn's part due to the Board's rejection of his plainly "fruitless" contention.

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2006.


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