Thursday, September 28, 2006

Double Meaning of "CINCH" for Snowboard Bindings Leads to TTAB Reversal of 2(e)(1) Refusal

Applicant K-2 Corporation overcame a mere descriptiveness refusal of the mark CINCH for snowboard bindings by arguing that the word has another connotation: easy to use. The Board therefore reversed the PTO's Section 2(e)(1) refusal. In re K-2 Corp., Serial Number 78364151 (September 7, 2006) [not citable].

The PTO made out a prima facie case of mere descriptiveness by submitting dictionary definitions of "cinch" as "a tight grip," and Internet pages that refer to "cinching" in order to tighten bindings. In addition, a depiction of K-2's product showed a binding with two straps that may be tightened. Thus "cinch" describes a feature of K-2's goods: "that tightening is required of the binding straps."

However, the evidence also showed that there are "multiple definitions" of "cinch," one of which is "something easily done." One website emphasized "the speed with which one may get into and out of applicant's snowboard binding." And so "easy to use" is a "connotation that consumers would likely attribute to applicant's mark."

The Board observed that there was no evidence beyond the dictionary definitions "to support any suggestion that this 'easy to use' connotation is merely descriptive." Nor did the PTO so contend.

"Inasmuch as both the 'tightening' and 'easy to use' connotations are connotations that purchasers may attribute to the mark, and because the record does not suggest that the 'easy to use' connotation immediately describes a feature, function, characteristic or purpose of applicant's goods, we have doubts as to whether applicant's mark is merely descriptive."

The Board resolved its doubts, as it must, in Applicant's favor, and reversed the refusal.

TTABlog comment: I agree that "cinch" has a double meaning (though there seemed to be no evidence that Applicant made use of that double meaning in its advertising). However, the second meaning that the Board accords to "cinch" -- easy to open -- seems rather descriptive when you put it that way. Better to say the second meaning is "it's a cinch to open," which sounds a little less descriptive and more imaginative. Or maybe I'm picking at nits.

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2006.


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