Precedential No. 44: TTAB Says Wikipedia Evidence is Admissible, but Should Be Corroborated
The TTAB has adopted the same stance as the Trademark side of the USPTO on the admissibility of Wikipedia evidence: admissible, but its weight may vary depending on the existence, or lack, of corroborating sources. [Trademark Commissioner Beresford's statement here]. That evidentiary ruling had little impact, however, on the Board's affirmance of the PTO's Section 2(e)(1) mere descriptiveness refusals of the marks ipPCS and ipPIPE for telecommunications services featuring a device that allows Internet transmission of images and video. In re IP Carrier Consulting Group, 84 USPQ2d 1028 (TTAB 2007) [precedential].
The brouhaha arose when Applicant submitted the Wikipedia entry for "Internet Service Provider" in an attempt to show that the most common abbreviation for "Internet Provider" is "ISP." The Board then launched into its discussion of Wikipedia evidence.
"There are inherent problems regarding the reliability of Wikipedia entries because Wikipedia is a collaborative website that permits anyone to edit the entries. *** As a result, entries, especially newer entries and recent edits, may contain significant misinformation, false or debatable information, 'unencyclopedic' content, unexpected oversights and omissions, vandalism, or unchecked information that requires removal. At any given time an article may be in the middle of an edit or controversial rewrite."
On the other hand, the Board noted, Internet evidence is "generally admissible and may be considered for purposes of evaluating a trademark."
The Board concluded that it will consider Wikipedia evidence "so long as the non-offering party has an opportunity to rebut that evidence by submitting other evidence that may call into question the accuracy of the particular Wikipedia information."
"As recommended by the editors of Wikipedia, the information in a particular article should be corroborated. The better practice with respect to Wikipedia evidence is to corroborate the information with other reliable sources, including Wikipedia's sources."
Here, there was corroborating evidence for the Wikipedia entry in the form of an American Heritage Dictionary listing for "Internet Service Provider."
The Board nonetheless found that "IP" is readily understood to mean "Internet Provider" and/or "Internet Protocol," and it found the two marks at issue to be merely descriptive of Applicant's services.
TTABlog comment: As I have said before, I think the better practice is to exclude Wikipedia evidence. [In short, I agree with INTA's position, found here]. If corroboration is required, why not discard the Wikipedia evidence entirely and rely on the corroborating evidence?
What happens when the corroborating evidence is other Internet evidence? Does such a house of cards provide any real support?
Text Copyright John L. Welch 2007.