Monday, March 10, 2008

Precedential No. 11: TTAB Finds "REDUCER" Generic for Flow Meters

The TTAB affirmed a refusal to register the term REDUCER on the Supplemental Register, finding it to be generic for "flow meters used for measuring flow through pipes; vortex flow meters." The Board also affirmed a requirement that Applicant disclaim the word REDUCER in the mark DOUBLE REDUCER for the same goods. In re Rosemount Inc., 86 USPQ2d 1436 (TTAB 2008) [precedential].

The Board first found that the genus of the goods to be defined by Applicant's identification of the goods. Applicant's website states that its flow meters have "the pipe reductions designed right into the flowmeter," and according to the Board, "[t]hus, the genus includes flowmeters that contain pipe reductions or reducers ...."

The next question was whether the relevant public understands the term REDUCER to primarily refer to flow meters that contain reducers. Examining Attorney Michael Litzau relied on dictionary definitions of REDUCER as a "pipefitting that joins two pipes of different diameters" and FLOW METER as an "instrument for monitoring, measuring, or recording the rate of flow, pressure, or discharge of a fluid." He pointed to third-party websites using the term REDUCER in connection with flow meters, and to Applicant's website statement that "by building the reducers into the meter, the Reducer Vortex can measure lower flows than any other vortex meter."

Applicant feebly argued that REDUCER can refer to "any number of things including reduced costs, reduced wastes, reduced maintenance, or reduced errors," and urged that REDUCER "only describes one aspect of the goods out of a multitude of possibilities."

The Board noted that, by seeking registration on the Supplemental Register, Applicant had conceded that REDUCER is at least descriptive of the goods. Therefore, "other meanings for 'REDUCER' and double entendre are inapplicable." Moreover, "the fact that the word reduce may be used in its verb form to indicate a reduction of a multitude of things in other contexts does not detract from the generic usage of the noun 'REDUCER' in the context of the goods at issue.

"The evidence of record established that piping that joins pipes of a different diameter in order to reduce pipe diameters to facilitate flow measurement are called 'REDUCERS' and flow meters are used in combination with 'REDUCERS.' The record also shows that flow meters contain 'REDUCERS' as part of a single product, thus eliminating the need for a separate reducer."

The Board ruled that the PTO had established a prima facie case that REDUCER is generic for Applicant's goods, and that Applicant had not rebutted the PTo's case.

TTABlog comment: I think the Board reached the right result, but one could say that the opinion does not exactly "flow." I'm surprised the Board didn't cite In re Central Sprinkler Co., 49 USPQ2d 1194 (TTAB 1998), in which the word ATTIC was held to be generic for sprinklers:

". . . we recognize that applicant's mark does not present the classic case of a generic noun, but rather a generic adjective. In this case, because the term ATTIC directly names the most important or central aspect or purpose of applicant's goods, that is, that the sprinklers are used in attics, this term is generic and should be freely available for use by competitors." 49 USPQ2d at 1199

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2008.


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