Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sophisticated Purchasers, Differences in Financial Services Lead TTAB to Reverse 2(d) Refusal of "BRIDGER CAPITAL" over "BRIDGER COMMERCIAL FUNDING"

"Notwithstanding the similarities between the marks, the significant differences between the nature of the services [together with] the high level of sophistication of purchasers tip the scales in favor of a finding of no likelihood of confusion." That's the reason the Board reversed a Section 2(d) refusal of the mark BRIDGER CAPITAL for "hedge fund services for high-net-worth investors" [CAPITAL disclaimed]. The Board found the mark not likely to cause confusion with the registered mark BRIDGER COMMERCIAL FUNDING for commercial lending services for the commercial mortgage and financial asset management industries" [COMMERCIAL FUNDING disclaimed]. In re Bridger Management, LLC, Serial No. 78516349 (December 28, 2007) [not precedential].

Jim Bridger

The Board noted that the cited mark is registered on the Supplemental Register, leading Applicant to claim that BRIDGER is merely descriptive of "bridge loans" offered through commercial lending services. Even assuming that were true, the Board observed, BRIDGER is still the dominant feature of both marks. And even if BRIDGER is arbitrary in Applicant's mark but descriptive in the registered mark, the difference in meaning is "outweighed by the identity in sound and appearance." And the marks in their entireties "engender substantially similar overall commercial impressions."

As to the services, the Board found that, although some financial institutions render both investment management and commercial lending services, hedge funds "are a distinct type of investment vehicle." The PTO "failed to provide even one example of a single entity providing both hedge fund and commercial lending services."

Moreover, "it is immediately apparent ... that the services are rendered to highly sophisticated purchasers": applicant's to high net worth individuals and entities; registrant's to banks and similar financial institutions.

"The nature of the services clearly requires that any of the involved financial transactions are made only with care and deliberation after investigation. *** [T]he customers are sophisticated and certainly will know with whom they are dealing."

Observing that it is not concerned with "mere theoretical possibilities of confusion" but with "the practicalities of the commercial world," the Board reversed the refusal to register.

TTABlog note: Jim Bridger, depicted above, had nothing to do with this case. But the word "Bridger" brought to mind the old Johnny Horton song about the legendary frontiersman. Besides, who wants to see a picture of a hedge fund?

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2008.


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