Monday, December 21, 2015

WYHA?: "STRETCH LA" Geographically Descriptive of Therapeutic Stretching Services, Says TTAB

The Board affirmed a Section 2(e)(2) refusal to register the mark STRETCH LA, finding the mark to be primarily geographically descriptive of "therapeutic stretching services." Applicant contended that STRETCH is the dominant portion of its mark, and that LA primarily suggests a level of fitness, "as the inhabitants of Los Angeles are generally thought to be in better physical shape that those that reside elsewhere in the United States." The Board found that too much of a stretch.  In re MMDT Stretch, LLC, Serial No. 85930329 (December 16, 2015) [not precedential].

A Section 2(e)(2) refusal requires a showing that: (1) the mark sought to be registered is the name of a place known generally to the public; (2) the public would make a services/place association, i.e., believe that the services for which the mark is sought to be registered originate in that place; and (3) the source of the services is the geographic region named in the mark.

As to elements (1) and (3), applicant conceded that LA "identifies a real and significant geographic location." Applicant is located in Los Angeles county.  It admitted that its services will originate in Los Angeles, and it intends to offer its services in and around Los Angeles.

The Board observed that applicant’s arguments did not provide "a clear, alternate, non-geographic meaning of the mark, but only a vague suggestion that the term LA has favorable associations for those interested in fitness." In the context of the identified services, "customers are likely to perceive the mark as designating stretching services associated with Los Angeles."

The presence of the generic term STRETCH does not detract from the primarily geographic meaning of the mark as a whole.

As to the second element of the test, ordinarily, a service/place association is presumed when the services originate in the place named. The Board pointed out that applicant's intention to offer its services outside the Los Angeles area does not per se remove the mark from the Section 2(e)(2) ban.

Applicant argued that consumers in, say, Portland would not think that the stretching services originate in Los Angeles, just as a customer sitting in a French bistro-style restaurant will not think he or she is in Paris.

The CAFC, in In re Les Halles De Paris, J.V.,  observed that establishing a services/place association is somewhat more difficult than establishing a goods/place association. There, the place named (Le Marais) was in a foreign country, and the customer for the involved restaurant services (in New York City) "is well aware of the geographic location of the service." The CAFC ruled that there must be "an additional reason beyond the mark itself to identify the services as originating in the relevant place."

Here, and unlike in In re Les Halles, the services are to be provided in the place named. Paraphrasing the CAFC:

[T]he customer, "having come to [Los Angeles] for the services," will be "well aware of the geographic location of the service" and will have "an additional reason beyond the mark itself” to believe that the services “have their origin in the location indicated by the mark."

The Board therefore affirmed the refusal.

Read comments and post your comment here.

TTABlog comment: Surely another person or entity should be able to use "LA" in connection with similar fitness services offered in that area without having to worry about an infringement claim?

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2015.


At 9:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about interstate commerce? With the new Board emphasis on "use," I would think this issue would be in play in this case.

At 9:03 PM, Blogger John L. Welch said...

"Interstate commerce" is not something the Examining Attorney looks at. If the applicant says the mark is in interstate commerce, the PTO will accept that. But any resulting registration could be challenged on that basis.


Post a Comment

<< Home