Tuesday, June 28, 2016

TTAB Affirms 2(e)(4) Surname Refusal of "DICKMAN'S" for Pickles

The Board affirmed a Section 2(e)(4) refusal of the mark DICKMAN'S for jams, jellies, pickles, and other class 29 goods, finding the mark to be primarily merely a surname. Applicant Enumclaw Farms argued that the number of persons with the surname DICKMAN is an inconsequential portion of the US population, but the Board found that the evidence sufficiently demonstrated that consumers are likely to perceive the mark as a surname. In re Enumclaw Farms LLC, Serial No. 85942195 (June 24, 2016) [nor precedential].

As usual, The Board applied the test set forth in In re Benthin. Applicant stated that "DICKMAN'S is not the proper surname of anyone connected with Applicant," but rather the mark was selected arbitrarily. Applicant conceded that "dickman" has no dictionary meaning.

Examining Attorney John S. Yard submitted LexisNexis results indicating that 1729 persons have the surname DICKMAN. He also submitted more than 100 news articles referring to individuals having that name. Applicant provided data from the 2000 census, revealing 5682 occurrences of the surname DICKMAN, ranking the name as the 5,601st for common surnames.

Finally, the Examining Attorney contended that DICKMAN has the structure of a surname, since "-MAN" is an extremely common suffix in surnames: e.g., Bachman, Goodman, Herman. Moreover, he maintained, the possessive form of the word does not diminish its surname significance, but rather reinforces it.

Applicant pointed out that the Examining Attorney had not provided evidentiary support for his assertion regarding these other names, but the Board deemed the other evidence sufficient to support the refusal. It found that the applied-for mark will be perceived by consumers as primarily merely a surname.

The fact that the number of persons with the surname represents a small percentage of the total U.S. population is inconsequential so long as the evidence sufficiently demonstrates that consumers are likely to primarily understand DICKMAN’S as a surname. In this case, the Examining Attorney has made such a prima facie showing. The evidence shows that the primary and almost exclusive manner in which the public is exposed to the term “dickman” is in the context of it being a surname.

The Board agreed with the Examining Attorney that the possessive ending of the mark reinforced its surname significance because consumers will believe that the identified goods are prepared and sold by someone with the surname "Dickman."

And so the Board affirmed the refusal

Read comments and post your comment here.

TTABlog comment: What do you think? Do you know any Dickmans?

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2016.


  1. Dickman's? I take it Big Johnson's was taken?

  2. Anonymous10:33 AM

    Seems pretty likely this was an attempt to choose a quasi-risque mark that came close to but did not reach the boundary of 2(a) "scandalous." The applicant probably didn't see that surname rake in his path and stepped on it.

  3. Anonymous10:48 AM

    Dickman . . . for pickles? Seriously? I'd have loved to have been in the meeting where they selected Dickman as the name. What were the other candidates? I won't speculate.

  4. Anonymous11:24 AM

    No double entendre argument for Dickman's pickles? Any plausible additional meaning will get you over that "merely descriptive" hurdle.