Friday, October 19, 2018

AMERICAN VETERINARY NURSES ASSOCIATION Geographically Descriptive of Veterinary Services, Says TTAB

The Board affirmed a Section 2(e)(2) refusal of the mark AMERICAN VETERINARY NURSES ASSOCIATION, finding it to be primarily geographically descriptive of "veterinary medicine services." Applicant argued that the term AMERICAN has multiple different connotations and therefore that the mark as a whole is merely suggestive of the services. The Board disagreed. In re National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, Inc., 2019 USPQ2d 269108 (TTAB 2019) [not precedential] (Opinion by Judge George C. Pologeorgis).

The Section 2(e)(2) bar requires proof of the following:

1. the primary significance of the term in the mark sought to be registered is the name of a place generally known to the public;
2. the source of the services is the place named in the mark; and
3. the public would make an association between the services and the place named in the mark by believing that the services originate in that place.

"The addition of highly descriptive matter to a geographic term does not detract from the mark’s primary significance as being geographically descriptive."

Applicant feebly argued that AMERICAN is a nebulous term because it could mean: (1) an association of veterinary nurses living in the United States; (2) an association of veterinary nurses from the United States (but perhaps no longer living in the United States); or (3) an association for veterinary nurses who speak English (vs. Chinese, French, etc.). The Board was unconvinced. "Even if this ambiguity is accepted, both interpretations are still a geographic meaning of the term, as opposed to any other type of meaning."
The Board noted that the words AMERICA or AMERICAN are sometimes found not to be primarily geographically descriptive, provided the word takes on an arbitrary meaning: for example, THE AMERICAN GIRL for shoes; AMERICAN PLAN CORPORATION for insurance brokerage services; THE GREAT AMERICAN BASH for wrestling exhibitions. In those cases, "the mere introduction of a subtle nuance may remove a mark from the primarily geographically descriptive category. That is, the overall commercial impression is no longer primarily geographic due to a new double meaning or another suggestive meaning." The Board, however, saw no new or double meaning here. "

Applicant’s mark contains a geographical component, “AMERICAN,” that is primarily geographically descriptive of the services within the meaning of Section 2(e)(2) of the Trademark Act. Indeed, if Applicant’s arguments were accepted, virtually every use of the term AMERICAN would become suggestive. In this case, the mark presents a textbook example of the unadorned use of the term AMERICAN to primarily denote the United States as the origin of services.

Applicant also contended that is use of VETERINARY NURSES is distinctive and exclusive, but the Board again disagreed, pointing to third-party websites using the same phrase. Even if applicant were the first and only user of that phrase, it is still merely descriptive of the services.

And so the Board affirmed the Section 2(e)(2) refusal.

Read comments and post your comment here.

TTABlog comment: AMERICAN BASH seems geographically descriptive to me. Isn't the bash held in America?

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2018.


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