Friday, February 18, 2005

TTAB Affirms PTO'S Refusal of "MARAJ" As Surname

In a straightforward application of its Section 2(e)(4) analysis, the Board affirmed the PTO's refusal to register the mark MARAJ for entertainment and performing arts services, finding the mark to be primarily merely a surname. In re Charlton, Serial No. 76463959 (February 1, 2005) [not citable].

The Examining Attorney's NEXIS search yielded several hundred stories referring to individuals with the surname MARAJ (including Champion Racing owner Dave Maraj), and the "USFIND Person Locator – Nationwide" database produced 308 hits across the country. The Board concluded that the surname was “somewhat rare,” but not so unusual that it would not be recognized by a substantial number of people.

Dave Maraj

The Board noted that no one associated with Applicant is named "Maraj," but remarked that the lack of such an association is a neutral factor in its analysis.

As to whether the word MARAJ has any other recognized meaning, Applicant Lacretia R. Charlton asserted that she wanted “the public to connect my services and my groups of performers with, and suggestive of the word 'Mirage.'" [sic] However, the Board pointed out that just because a surname is phonetically equivalent to a common word, that does not overcome its surname significance. See In re Pickett Hotel Co., 229 USPQ 760 (TTAB 1986) (PICKETT/picket). Moreover, it questioned whether MARAJ and "mirage" would be "viewed as essentially the same." In sum, Charlton was unable to show that MARAJ has any meaning other than as a surname.

Mirage Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas

Finally, as to the most subjective of the Section 2(e)(4) factors, the Board agreed with the Examining Attorney that MARAJ has the "look and feel" of a surname, particularly since MARAJ does not appear to be an arbitrary term, there are numerous references to individuals named MARAJ, and the word appears to have no other significance.

The Board concluded that "the public would have no reason to conclude that [the mark] was not a surname," and it affirmed the refusal to register.

Surname refusals are quite difficult to overcome if the PTO comes up with any appreciable number of database hits. Unless the term in question has some other meaning or significance*, success on appeal will be no more than a mirage.

* See, e.g., In re Pyro-Spectaculars, Inc., 63 USPQ2d 2022, 2024 (TTAB 2002) (SOUSA for fireworks); In re United Distillers plc, 56 USPQ2d 1220 (TTAB 2000) (HACKLER for alcoholic beverages).

Text ©John L. Welch 2005. All Rights Reserved.


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