Friday, October 11, 2013

Test Your TTAB Judge-Ability: Is ACHOUFFE Primarily Geographically Descriptive of Beer?

The PTO refused registration of the mark ACHOUFFE for beer, finding the mark to be primarily geographically descriptive under Section 2(e)(2). Applicant appealed. The question was whether Achouffe is a name of a place generally known to the public. [Customer: Achouffe! Bartender: Gesundheit!] How do you think this came out? In re Brasserie D’Achouffe, Société Anonyme, Serial No. 79107741 (September 26, 2013) [not precedential].

There was no dispute that Achouffe is the name of a small village in the municipality of Houffalize, located in the Wallonia region of Belgium. The Examining Attorney, relying on several websites and blogs, contended that "beer drinkers, especially those who drink Belgian beer, are familiar with the town of Achouffe."

The Board, however, found the PTO's evidence insufficient to show that Achouffe is a geographic location that is generally known to the relevant consuming public, namely, prospective beer drinkers. [what about current beer drinkers? - ed.]. The evidence showed that Achouffe is "very much an obscure location and would be relatively unknown to the relevant American consumer." At most, it would be known to persons intimately familiar with applicant's beer, and more specifically, those who had visited the town of Achouffe.

Brasserie D'Achouffe

Read comments and post your comment here.

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2013.


At 9:39 AM, Anonymous Freiburger said...

The rule that the geographic place must be "generally known to the relevant consuming public" seems lost on the examining corps. I once had an examining attorney tell me an obscure place in Australia qualified because it just so happened she had been to (or passed through) that place before(!). Unfortunately the client didn’t let me appeal.

At 11:10 AM, Blogger Robert said...

Here is a case where an examining attorney did not really carefully consider the quality of available online information or if it provided a compelling reason why an obscure village in Belgium should be better known than an obscure village in Germany (beer from Aying), a town of 10000 persons in Germany (beer from Jever), or the capital of an African country (beer from Windhoek, Namibia). In re Namibia Breweries Limited, Ser. No. 77761812 (2010, not precedential). He had a five-sentence stub from Wikipedia. Articles labeled as stubs should be a clue that your location is not generally known, especially when three of the five sentences are used to describe where in Belgium the village is. Similarly if you are relying are worldwide travel sites with just a few reviews, your location is obscure. Moreover, sites like TripAdvisor receive reviews from people throughout the world, so you cannot even be sure that the reviews were written by Americans. Similarly a Belgian website may not be competent evidence to show that a location is generally known to beer drinkers in the U.S.


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