Tuesday, February 24, 2015

WYHA? TTAB Affirms Mere Descriptiveness Refusal of INTERNATIONAL AIR AND SPACE PROGRAM for Aero Space Conferences

In a four-page decision, the Board affirmed a Section 2(e)(1) refusal to register the mark INTERNATIONAL AIR AND SPACE PROGRAM for "organizing conferences and symposia in the field of aero space" [AIR AND SPACE PROGRAM disclaimed]. Would it be fair to say that any affirmance of a Section 2(e)(1) that runs five pages or less is presumptively a WYHA? Would You Have Appealed? In re Aexa Aerospace LLC, Serial No. 86181509 (February 19, 2015) [not precedential].

In light of the disclaimer, applicant focused its argument on the word "international," claiming that the word could have a variety of different meanings to consumers and therefore that some degree of imagination would be required to associate the term with applicant's services. That argument never took off because, as the Board pointed out, the mark must be considered not in the abstract but in the context of the services. Applicant's specimen of use described its services as "an international program for students," and so the Board agreed with Examining Attorney Matt Einstein that consumers will immediately recognize that the word "international" conveys information about applicant's services.

Moreover, the Board has in the past found marks incorporating the word "international" to be merely descriptive of services that are international in scope: for example, INTERNATIONAL BANKING INSTITUTE for organizing seminars for bankers from major countries, BILLFISH INTERNATIONAL COMPANY for services involving billfish on an international scale, and INTERNATIONAL TRAVELERS CHEQUE for financial services of international scope.

Finally, the Board noted that the combination of INTERNATIONAL with AIR AND SPACE PROGRAM created no new meaning beyond that of the constituent terms.

And so the Board affirmed the refusal.

Read comments and post your comment here

TTABlog note: With cases like this, I could be a TTAB judge.

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2015.


At 2:04 PM, Blogger Cory Lamz said...

WYHA? No, I would not have. There’s not much wiggle room for arguments here. The key to this refusal, much like what you pointed to in the final paragraph of your post, is whether the use of the combination of INTERNATIONAL and AIR AND SPACE PROGRAM created a new meaning beyond the terms of its constituent terms. Tough to do that, though, when, as TTAB acknowledges, the applicant’s own specimen provides such an – ahem – descriptive description of its services.

The description included in the specimen:

“International Air and Space Program (IASP for short) is an international program for students, which promotes human development, science and technology in order to build skills, knowledge and experience meanwhile they find solutions to various issues related to air and space, which will help them better cope with challenges in their professional future and that contribute to a comprehensive education.”

I can’t think of a more unfavorable specimen for inclusion with the appeal!

Interestingly enough, I’d like to note that as of today, the International Air and Space Program’s description of its services on its own website has changed from what was provided as specimen.

Now the description states: “IASP students gain early knowledge, skills, abilities and experience to carry with them for the rest of their lives. By working in teams, they learn to cooperate, evaluate ideas, respect for others and make decisions to achieve objectives; thus gaining confidence, learn that there is often more than one way to solve the same problem and always the process to reach a solution is more important than the result. The program facilitates networking (which can increase your contact list to share resources, information, experience and competence in any activity). The program has a curricular value for both the students and the school they represents, so it is very educational for students and attractive to educational institutions.”


The new description has been significantly re-jiggered from the previous description, focusing more on teamwork, networking, and the educational value of the IASP program. There’s no mention whatsoever of being an “international program” in the new description of services.

Perhaps this means that the IASP learned from its mistake. Or maybe it means that the IASP has a new web marketing person. Either way, the new description of services is not nearly as damning when it comes to registration.

...If only the IASP had this description of services in place when it had initially filed the appeal from refusal, we might be talking about a different situation today. (Actually, we probably wouldn’t. Even without the specimen, it’s an uphill battle to argue that INTERNATIONAL means anything other than “involving two or more countries” or “active or known in many countries.” The result would have most likely been the same.)


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