Tuesday, June 19, 2012

TTAB Finds LOUISIANA FAST START Not Confusingly Similar to QUICK START For Business Training Services

The Board dismissed an opposition to registration of the mark LOUISIANA FAST START for business training services [LOUISIANA disclaimed], finding the mark not likely to cause confusion with Opposer's mark QUICK START for very similar training services. The weakness of Opposer's mark and the sophistication of potential purchasers were key factors in the Board's decision. Technical College System of Georgia v. Louisiana Economic Development, Opposition No. 91191683 (May 29, 2012) [not precedential].

Evidentiary issues: Opposer TCSB failed to get its pleaded registration for the mark QUICK START into the record. It claimed that it "downloaded the '463 Registration to its Notice of Opposition via the Board's ESSTA electronic filing system." But that doesn't work. Even though a person types in the registration number(s) for the pleaded registration(s), that does not make the registration(s) of record because it does not provide status and title copies of the registration(s), as required by Rule 2.122. [TTABlog query: why doesn't the PTO/Board just automatically upload the corresponding TEAS electronic records when one types in a registration number? It's their data anyway! That would eliminate this "gotcha" situation.]

Opposer created a number of other evidentiary problems for itself. For example, it submitted its trial evidence after its testimony period had closed, and belatedly filed its testimony deposition (which testimony was taken prematurely, before its testimony period had opened). The Board allowed the testimony deposition into the record because Applicant had not timely objected.

When the evidentiary dust had settled, the testimony deposition of Opposer TCSB's witness was "minimally sufficient" to establish priority. Of course, had it proven up its registration, prioirty would not have been an issue.

Likelihood of confusion: Turning to the Section 2(d) issues, the Board found the involved services to be "highly related inasmuch as both programs are essentially in the business of workforce training." Moreover, the services are offered through overlapping trade channels to the same classes of customers.

As to the strength of Opposer's mark, the Board observed that QUICK START is "clearly not an arbitrary choice." It suggests that newly-trained employees can quickly begin working with business relocating to Georgia. Third-party registrations for Quick Start, PR QUICKSTART, DP QUICKSTART, FASTART, FAST START, and JUMPSTART, and third-party uses of similar terms, all for educational services, convinced the Board that QUICK START is "highly suggestive for TCSG's services."

Because TCSG failed to get its registration into the record, its actual form of use of the mark "becomes more critical." The Board noted that in many cases Opposer uses the mark in the form "Georgia Quick Start" rather than "Quick Start" by itself.

The Board considered LOUISIANA to be the dominant element of Applicant's mark [even though disclaimed]. This word "would seem to create a strong dissimilarity in the marks," even with the addition of "Georgia" to Opposer's mark. And when "Georgia" is added, the marks do not resemble each other. This, the Board found, is a significant factor.

Finally, the Board pooh-poohed TCSG's feeble assertion that international businesses might be confused, since they may not distinguish between different southern states and may not recognize that individual states may have competing economic interests. Applicant argued that the decision to locate a company in a particular state is a complex and time-consuming process, one undertaken with care. The Board sided with Applicant.

Inasmuch as the governors of most states are similarly engaged in this kind of competition, it seems likely that most foreign ventures contemplating the planting of a large business enterprise in the United States will be well aware that fifty separate states within our federalist system are all competing for their investments. Accordingly, we agree with applicant that it is a fairly remote chance that some foreign national will inadvertently be led to invest millions of dollars into the wrong state based on the superficial resemblance of these two marks.

The Board therefore concluded that Opposer had failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that confusion is likely.

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2012.


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