Wednesday, September 02, 2009

TTAB Reverses Surname Refusal of "SIGMANN" for Kitchen Fixtures

The Board needed only six pages to set out its decision reversing a Section 2(e)(4) surname refusal of the mark SIGMANN for sinks, lamps, and lighting fixtures, printed matter relating to kitchens, and kitchen furniture. The Examining Attorney offered a feeble NEXIS/LEXIS listing of 33 persons with the surname SIGMANN (five of which appeared to be duplicates), and excerpts from five news stories about persons name SIGMANN. From that poor start, it was all downhill for the refusal. In re SieMatic Schweiz GmbH, Serial No. 79033882 (August 14, 2009) [not precedential].

The Board applied its standard Section 2(e)(4) test found in In re Benthin Management GmbH, 37 USPQ2d 1332 (TTAB 1995). In light of the PTO's weak surname usage evidence, the Board concluded that SIGMANN is an "extremely rare surname." [Judge Seeherman would say "game, set, and match" at this point, based on the rareness of the surname (see discussion here)]. The Board also noted that none of the persons named SIGMANN was particularly prominent [unlike, say, former PTO Director James Rogan], a point of dubious significance.

There was no evidence that anyone associated with applicant has the surname SIGMANN, a factor favoring applicant. And there was no evidence that SIGMANN has any non-surname significance (in English or German).

Finally, the Board looked to the fourth factor: whether SIGMANN has the "look and feel" of a surname. Admitting that this determination is "somewhat subjective," and despite the similarity of SIGMANN to the surname "Sigman" (a "slightly more recognizable" surname) the Board was not persuaded that SIGMANN "has the clear look and feel of a surname."

The Board concluded that the Examining Attorney had failed to meet her initial burden of showing that SIGMANN is primarily merely a surname.

TTABlog comment: This case is a good example of why, as Judge Seeherman said in Baik, the rareness factor is the only important one. The Board's treatment of the "look and feel" factor here was a joke, but since the rareness of the surname SIGMANN clearly favored Applicant, it seems the Board did not want to decide that fourth factor against Applicant.

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2009.


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