TTAB Affirms Surname Refusal of MOTT'S for Baby Food
Finding that MOTT is not a rare surname, the Board affirmed Section 2(e)(4) refusals of MOTT'S for "baby foods" and for "packaged combinations consisting primarily of fresh fruit, namely, fresh fruit and fresh fruit packaged in combination with cheese, granola, yogurt, and/or caramels." Applicant argued that MOTT primarily identifies Samuel R. Mott, an historical figure. Applesauce! said the Board. In re Mott’s LLP, Serial Nos. 85374805 and 85436615 (April 30, 2013) [not precedential].
The Board applied its conventional Section 2(e)(4) analysis. It first observed that the "surname significance of a term is not diminished by the fact that the term is presented in its plural or possessive form."
Examining Attorney Thomas M. Manor submitted LexisNexis evidence showing that MOTT appears 5,819 times as a surname in a nationwide directory. According to Applicant's 2010 census evidence, there are 17,013 persons surnamed MOTT, ranking MOTT as the 1,941st most common surname in the USA. The Board concluded that MOTT is not a rare surname.
Next the Board noted that Applicant has no current officer or employee named Mott (although Samuel R. Mott founded the company in 1842). In any case, this factor alone is not dispositive.
The evidence indicated that there is no meaning of "mott" other than as a surname. Applicant asserted that "Mott" is a reference to Samuel R. Mott, who is "so widely recognized, revered, and celebrated that use of the term MOTT has lost any surname significance." See, e.g., In re Pyro-Spectaculars, Inc., 63 USPQ2d 222, 2024 (TTAB 2002) [SOUSA not primarily merely a surname for fireworks]. The Board was unconvinced: "Applicant’s argument would have carried more weight had it been supported by a reference other than applicant’s website and had Samuel Mott been identified in any of the [cited] dictionaries." Mr. Mott's personal history is not "in any way so extraordinary that he warrants treatment under the 'historical person' exception to the surname refusal."
Finally, the Board found that Mott has the look and sound of a surname. It has no other meaning and does not look like a coined term. Moreover, the possessive form "Mott's" reinforces its impression as a surname.
Finally, Applicant pointed to its ownership of ten Principal Registrations for the mark MOTT'S or combinations thereof, all registered without resort to Section 2(f). However, the marks that combine MOTT'S with other words, like MINI MOTT'S, are not relevant because they are not primarily merely surnames. Only three registrations involved the word MOTT'S by itself. However, these prior registrations "do not conclusively rebut" the Section 2(e)(4) refusal. "Even if some prior registration had some characteristics similar to the subject matter of this application, the PTO's allowance of such prior registrations does not bind the Board."
And so the Board affirmed the refusal.
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Text Copyright John L. Welch 2013.