Thursday, February 02, 2017

TTAB Finds "THE LAUNDRY CAFE" Generic for ..... Guess What?

The Board affirmed a refusal to register THE LAUNDRY CAFE on the Supplemental Register, finding the term to be generic for "providing washing and drying laundry facilities," in International Class 37, and "Café and restaurant services," in International Class 43. Applicant argued that the recited services must be considered separately, but the Board agreed with Examining Attorney James T. Griffin that the relevant genus is the combination of laundry and restaurant services. In re Holland Akins Ventures, LLC, Serial No. 86650058 (January 31, 2017) [not precedential].

The Board pooh-poohed the PTO's foreign evidence: "foreign websites show the use of words by foreign writers, and they cannot, alone, demonstrate that U.S. persons have adopted the terminology used abroad." However, the Board did give probative value to the Internet evidence showing use of the phrase "laundry cafe" in various parts of this country to refer to a combination laundry and cafe. Two of the examples showed spontaneous use of the phrase "laundry cafe" by reporters, two involved businesses that chose the phrase to identify themselves, and another was "a blogger’s detailed description of his reaction to seeing a store marked LAUNDRY CAFÉ, showing that he understood it to refer to a café associated with a laundry."

The record also included a registration for THE LAUNDROMAT CAFE, in which "laundromat cafe" was disclaimed.

The CAFC's Princeton Vanguard decision requires that, even when the combination consists of two generic words, the Board must discern "the public’s understanding of whether joining those individual words into one lends additional meaning to the mark as a whole."

Here, the evidence of the public's understanding was not voluminous, the Board noted, but it was "sufficient to demonstrate that the relevant public would understand THE LAUNDRY CAFE primarily to refer to cafés that offer laundry services and laundries that offer café services." Of particular import was the fact that two writers spontaneously chose the term "laundry cafe" to identify businesses similar to that of applicant.

And so the Board affirmed the refusal.

Read comments and post your comment here.

TTABlog comment: I'll have a detergent burger and a glass of fabric softener.

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2017.


At 9:26 AM, Anonymous Cheryl Burbach said...

I wonder if the outcome would have been different it the applicant had filed separate applications for each class. Of course, "cafe" would need to be disclaimed for restaurant services, and "laundry" would need to be disclaimed in the application for laundry facilities. Perhaps under this approach, the mark may have been found descriptive or could be registered on the Supplemental Register?

On the other hand, I suppose it could be fraud if the applicant did not disclose the entire nature of the business.

At 11:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this case was a total wash, leaving only the coffee stains.


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