Tuesday, November 21, 2017

TTAB TEST: Is "UNI/FORM" Merely Descriptive of Clothing?

The USPTO refused registration of the mark UNI/FORM in standard character form, finding it to be merely descriptive of clothing, namely, belts, shorts, t-shirts, etc. On appeal, applicant contended that the mark is merely suggestive of its goods, which are "non-standardized, individual and voluntarily purchased medium to high price-point clothing." Applicant also claimed that UNI/FORM is a double entendre, referring to "UNIque FORMula," and furthermore is incongruous. How do you think this came out? In re John Patrick Allen, Serial No. 86800623 (November 16, 2017) [not precedential] (Opinion by Judge Marc A. Bergsman).

Examining Attorney Annie M. Noble submitted a dictionary definition of "uniform" as "the distinctive clothing worn by members of the same organization or body or children attending certain schools" [This brings back painful memories of eight years of wearing a tan shirt and blue tie at St Leo's School on Chicago's South Side - ed.] or "an identifying outfit or style of dress worn by the members of a given profession, organization, or rank."

The Board noted, however, that the term "is broadly applied to include personal styles of dress so that most clothing in Applicant's description could be part of a uniform," referring to several media articles describing "uniform dressing," i.e., a personal "style uniform" that some women employ to simplify their lives by wearing the same look every day.

Applicant conceded that uniforms are a type/subset of clothing, but he pointed out that his mark is UNI/FORM, not UNIFORM. The Board was not impressed: "the addition of punctuation marks would not ordinarily change the term into a non-descriptive one." E.g., 3-0's for thirty-inch car rims, HA-LUSH-KA for haluska, AL-KOL for alcohol.

Applicant's assertion that his clothing items were "non-standardized, individual and voluntarily purchased medium to high price-point clothing" was pointless, since there was no such limitation in the identification of goods.

As to the double entendre argument, the Board observed that such a double meaning must be readily apparent from the mark itself, and the supposed second meaning "UNIque FORMula" was not. As to incongruity, the Board found none.

And so the Board affirmed the refusal.

Read comments and post your comment here.

TTABlog comment: How did you do? Is  this a WYHA?

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2017.


At 7:59 AM, Blogger Pamela Chestek said...

As a strong believer in the concept that punctuation can alter impression, not a WYHA. I'm with the applicant.

At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am with the applicant, too. I can see the merits of requiring a disclaimer of exclusive rights to the word "uniform" that lacks the distinguishing slash. But if there is such a disclaimer, who is being hurt by registering this mark?


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