Monday, December 08, 2014

TTAB Finds "STEAM CAR WASH" Generic for ... Guess What?

I suspect you didn't guess this one. The Board affirmed a refusal to register STEAM CAR WASH for "online retail store services featuring car cleaning and vacuuming equipment," on the ground of genericness. The Board pooh-poohed applicant's argument that the applied-for mark "creatively suggests that Applicant’s website at is an imaginary online car wash."  In re Daniel Cohen, Serial No. 85813275 (December 4, 2014) [not precedential].

Examining Attorney Ellen Awrich relied upon dictionary definitions of "steam" and "car wash," on Internet evidence regarding steam car washing machines, on industry articles, and on third-party websites advertising directed to auto detailers (promoting the "green" or ecological benefits of this equipment).

The Board found the genus or category of the services to be aptly described by applicant's recitation of services. The examining attorney pointed out that STEAM CAR WASH identifies a key aspect of applicant's services. Under Board precedent, a term that names the focus of the services is generic for the services. [E.g., TIRES TIRES TIRES for retail stores that sell tires; LENS for retail contact lens services.]

The "relevant public" for applicant's services consists of auto detailers and others in the car washing business. The evidence confirmed that others in the same business as applicant advertise cleaning equipment online using the term "steam car wash."

In short, the examining attorney provided the required clear evidence that "steam car wash" names the "central focus" or "key aspect" of applicant's services, and therefore is a generic term for those services.

Applicant maintained that the third-party websites use the phrase "steam car wash" with another word, like "machine" or "system," and that "steam car wash" by itself does not connote a type of machine. The Board was not moved. Applicant's mark is a generic adjective, like ATTIC for sprinklers, found to be generic in In re Cent. Sprinkler Co., 49 USPQ2d 1194, 1199 (TTAB 1998). The fact that other terms (like "steam pressure washers") may be available for use was irrelevant, since the USPTO need not establish that the term in question is the only, or even the most frequently used, term for the goods that are the focus of applicant's services.

Finally, applicant urged that the applied-for mark "creatively suggests that Applicant's website ... is an imaginary online car wash" that uses steam or is named "Steam." [Not if they visit the website - ed.]. The Board had not doubt, however, that the relevant consumers will understand STEAM CAR WASH in the context of applicant's services, as referring to a category of online retail store services.

And so the Board affirmed the refusal.

Read comments and post your comment here

TTABlog comment: I'm not convinced that STEAM CAR WASH should be deemed generic for the identified services. Highly descriptive, yes. Requiring a significant mound of Section 2(f) evidence for registration purposes, yes. But generic?

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2014.


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