TTAB Test: Is BOLAN for Musical Instruments Primarily Merely a Surname?
The USPTO refused registration of the mark BOLAN for musical instruments, piano benches, recording systems, and related management and repair services, finding the mark to be primarily merely a surname under Section 2(e)(4). The name "Bolan" appeared 455 times in a public record database. How do you think this came out? In re Grand & Piano Parts Distribution B.V. Serial No. 85946217 (March 31, 2015) [not precedential].
The Board applied its standard Benthin test, looking to the rareness of the surname, any connection of the surname with someone associated with applicant, other meanings, and the "look and feel" of the term.
The examining attorney provided a database listing in which the surname BOLAN appeared 455 times. There was no showing that anyone named BOLAN had achieved wide renown or publicity. The Board concluded that BOLAN is "an extremely rare surname."
There was no evidence that anyone named "Bolan" was associated with applicant. The Examining attorney produced "negative dictionary evidence" from a single dictionary, and the Board found that this factor "very slightly" favored the PTO's position.
As to "look and feel," the examining attorney maintained that BOLAN is similar to other surnames found on a genealogy website: Boland, Boling, Bolin, and Boylan, but the Board noted that each name appeared only once. Due to the dearth of evidence, the Board was unable to make a definitive determination regarding this factor.
Bearing in mind that any doubt must be resolved in favor of the applicant, the Board found that BOLAN, "largely due to its rareness," is not primarily merely a surname.
And so the Board reversed the refusal.
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TTABlog note: Half a century ago, the Red Sox had a shortstop named Milt Bolling, whose brother Frank played for the Tigers, if I recall correctly. Frankly, Bolan looks like a surname to me.
Postscript: a loyal FOB recalled the late Marc Bolan of T-Rex.
Text Copyright John L. Welch 2015.