TTAB Reverses 2(d) Refusal of "QUAANTUM" for Trailer Suspension Systems Over "QUANTUM" for Tires
Because the PTO failed to establish that the goods are related for Section 2(d) purposes, and because the relevant purchasers will exercise a high degree of care, the Board reversed a refusal to register the mark QUAANTUM for "trailer suspension systems, incorporating wheel end systems," finding it not likely to cause confusion with the registered mark QUANTUM for tires. In re The Boler Company, Serial No. 77059048 (February 17, 2009) [not precedential].
Not surprisingly, the Board found the marks at issue to be "virtually indistinguishable." The decision consequently hinged on the similarity or dissimilarity of the goods. Applicant Boler argued that it sells suspension systems for tractor trailers, but the Board once again pointed out that the Section 2(d) determination is based upon the goods as identified in the application and cited registration, regardless of what the record may reveal the actual goods to be. Likewise, registrant's goods are not limited, and encompass tires for trailers.
The PTO submitted 11 third-party registrations in an effort to show the relatedness of the goods, but only two included trailer suspension systems and tires. Two websites showed trailer suspension systems and tires sold by the same retailer, but not under the same mark. The Board found this evidence insufficient to establish that "purchasers encountering trailer suspension systems and tires under the same or similar marks would conclude that they originate from the same source."
Boler contended that trailer suspension systems are purchased by knowledgeable purchasers because the system must be carefully selected based upon a number of factors, including the make, model, and intended use of the trailer. Although Boler did not explain how trademarks affect the purchasing decision, the Board concluded that consumers will exercise a "high degree of care when selecting a trailer suspension system, and consequently pay attention to the source of the product."
A trailer suspension system is an unusual and complex product. Therefore, the purchase thereof involves considerable planning and a reasonably focused need for the product. It will be bought and sold by knowledgeable people. Undoubtedly, it will be a relatively expensive purchase.
The Board noted that, while any trailer owner may purchase tires for a trailer, "the only overlap in customers would be the careful, sophisticated purchasers of applicant's products." [TTABlog query: the purchasers may be careful buying the expensive and complicated suspension system, but will they be as careful when purchasing a much less complicated and less expensive tire?]
Balancing the relevant du Pont factors, the Board found confusion unlikely, but noted that "on a different and more complete record," a different result might be reached.
Text Copyright John L. Welch 2009.