TTAB Test: Is SKINNIBELT Generic for Belts?
The USPTO refused to register the term SKINNIBELT for "belts," deeming it generic for the goods. The Examining Attorney maintained that "skinny belt" is the generic name of a category of belts. Applicant appealed. How do you think this came out? In re Jasco Solutions L.L.C., Serial No. 86308947 (July 25, 2016) [not precedential].
The Board noted that if "skinny belt" is generic, so is "skinnibelt," since the phonetic equivalent of a generic term is itself generic.
The Examining Attorney made of record retail website evidence offering women's apparel, and including many references to "skinny belts," but in many cases the context did not allow the Board to distinguish between descriptive and generic use.
Often, the context suggested that the term is not generic: for example, the following list "Accessories/belts/ skinny, medium, wide." One would not expect "medium belts," or "wide belts" to be generic, but rather merely descriptive of width.
Other websites display "skinny belt" alongside items described by variations of this wording: e.g., "Skinny Leather Belt, Skinny Faux Leather Belt, skinny thin Patent Leather Belt, ...." The interposition of other descriptive words between "skinny" and "belt" suggest that "skinny" is merely an adjective.
The Examining Attorney submitted several examples that appeared to use "skinny belt" in a generic sens: e.g., "The red skinny belt by far stands out as the most popular colorful belt ...." However, these same sources also suggest that "skinny" might be just an adjective: e.g., "skinny rectangular belts."
Finally, the Board noted that nearly all of the products referred to in the USPTO's evidence as "skinny belts" were narrow in width. Applicant's belts (see above) are relatively wide but very thin in terms of the fabric from which they are made. Thu,s this suggest a disagreement as to what a "skinny" belt actually is.
The Board found the USPTO's evidence to be equivocal, and it does not clearly show that the relevant public understands the term "skinny belt" as a reference to a genus of belts, rather than merely a combination of the generic word "belt" to which the descriptor "skinny" has been applied.
Since the USPTO failed to provide the required clear evidence of genericness,the Board reversed the refusal.
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TTABlog comment: How did you do? In my experience, belts are displayed by length, not width. So all the "36"s will be hung on one peg, etc. The widths of the belts on the peg may vary. But there is no little sign saying "skinny belts." If there were, that's where I'd go.
Text Copyright John L. Welch 2016.