Wednesday, June 28, 2006

TTAB Reverses Refusal to Register "MILK QUALITY TEAM" on Supplemental Register

It would be pretty hard to root against a mark like MILK QUALITY TEAM. What will the PTO reject next? MOM? APPLE PIE? Fortunately, with Independence Day just around the corner, the TTAB stood up for what's right about America when it reversed the PTO's refusal to register, on the Supplemental Register, the mark MILK QUALITY TEAM for diary equipment maintenance services and various other services related to dairy hygiene. In re West Agro, Inc., Serial No. 76405802 (June 14, 2006) [not citable].

The PTO refused registration absent a disclaimer of the term QUALITY TEAM, claiming that term to be generic. The Office relied on NEXIS and Internet excerpts to show "common usage of the word 'quality team' as the name of a category of services, quality team services." The Board, however, was not moooooved.

"While the evidence of record shows that 'quality teams' are used in many businesses and industries as part of a business model, the evidence falls far short in establishing that QUALITY TEAM refers to any genus of services in applicant's identification."

The PTO's argument that potential customers "would immediately know that the services are performed by quality teams" would be proper if mere descriptiveness were the issue, but here the issue is genericness.

Applicant's specimen of use

Moreover, it was not clear to the Board that consumers would view the term QUALITY TEAM in Applicant's mark "as referring to a quality team as that term has been used in the various articles that are of record."

"Instead, consumers are likely to view the word QUALITY as referring to MILK, and to understand the mark as indicating a team that helps to improve or maintain the quality of milk, rather that as the business concept of a 'quality team.'"

Applicant's promotional piece lent support to this interpretation: "We passionately assist our customers and the dairy industry as an enthusiastic and willing partner, sharing the same milk quality and udder health goals of the dairies we serve." [emphasis supplied by Board].

Concluding that the PTO's evidence of genericness was udderly insufficient, the Board reversed the refusal to register.

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2006.


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