Tuesday, April 11, 2006

In a Non-Precedential Ruling, CAFC Affirms TTAB's Uncitable "TORRE MUGA" Decision

In a non-precedential opinion, Miguel Torres, S.A. v. Bodegas Muga, S.A., Appeal No. 05-1520 (April 10, 2006), the CAFC affirmed the TTAB's uncitable decision in Opposition No. 91112586 [TTABlogged here]. The court ruled that substantial evidence supported the Board's duPont factual findings, and it upheld the Board's legal conclusion that the mark TORRE MUGA & tower design (below left) is not confusingly similar to the word marks MIGUEL TORRES and LAS TORRES, and the TORRES & tower design mark (below right), all for wines.

The Board had found that the second, third, and fourth duPont factors (the similarity of the goods, the similarity of the trade channels, and the conditions of sale and buyer unsophistication) favored Opposer, while the first, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth du Pont factors favored Applicant Muga.

As to the first factor, the court observed that the word "torre" (singular) does not connote the surname Torres, but simply the word "tower." "This distinction, along with the fact that Muga does not use the word 'torre' alone, but uses it in conjunction with 'Muga,' is sufficient to support the Board's finding that the marks were somewhat dissimilar in their appearance, sound, connotation and commercial impression."

As to the fifth factor, the Board agreed with the TTAB's assessment that Opposer's marks had "acquired some recognition," but were not famous. As the Board found, Opposer's showing of "critical acclaim and favorable references in newspapers ... fell far short of the showing usually required to prove that a mark has acquired fame and the broad protection that accompanies it."


The Board also properly assessed the sixth duPont factor, said the court: "While Muga provided minimal context for some of its examples, the sheer number and geographical distribution of Muga's examples of third-party use give the evidence some probative value ...."

Finally, as the seventh and eighth factors, the court noted that Opposer "does not dispute that it produced no evidence of actual confusion, and the Board reasonably inferred that the lack of evidence, under the circumstances, favored Muga."

The court affirmed the Board's decision because:

"The factors favoring Muga are sufficient, when balanced against the factors favoring Torres, to support the conclusion that Muga's mark is unlikely to cause confusion as to the source of the goods to which it is affixed."

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2006


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