Tuesday, June 30, 2020

TTAB Sustains Two-Pronged Section 2(e)(1) Opposition to ANDRÉ-CHARLES BOULLE for Furniture

The Board sustained this two-pronged Section 2(e)((1) opposition to registration of the proposed mark ANDRÉ-CHARLES BOULLE for "Furniture, mirrors." Boulle was a celebrated 17th-Century French furniture maker whose works remain on the market today. The Board found the mark to be either merely descriptive, or deceptively misdescriptive, of the goods. De Boulle Diamond & Jewelry, Inc. v. Boulle Ltd., Opposition No. 91219499 (June 23, 2020) [not precedential] (Opinion by Judge Frances Wolfson).

A mark is “merely descriptive” if it immediately conveys information about an ingredient, quality, characteristic, feature, function, purpose or use of the goods. A mark is “deceptively misdescriptive if it: (1) misrepresents any fact concerning the goods or services; and (2) consumers are likely to believe the misdescription.

Opposer introduced the testimony of design historian Judith Gura to establish that André-Charles Boulle is a celebrated French cabinetmaker associated with the Baroque period, and known for an elaborate and intricate technique of marquetry that has become known as "Boulle work." His name is known to any person with an awareness of French traditional design. Boulle did not sign his work, and so it must be authenticated in other ways. “Virtually all fully-documented examples are in museums, and any pieces that come to market bring exceptional prices.”

Opposer argued that if Applicant sells genuine articles of furniture created by André-Charles Boulle or his studio (unlikely since Boulle's genuine works are exceedingly rare and virtually all examples are in museums), then the mark ANDRÉ-CHARLES BOULLE is merely descriptive of the goods. On the other hand, if Applicant sells furniture that is not genuine, the mark will be deceptively misdescriptive. Applicant stated that it "has not decided whether or not it will sell goods created by André-Charles Boulle."

In light of the fame and reputation of André-Charles Boulle the Board found that use of the proposed mark for furniture would likely "create the impression among potential buyers that the piece was created by Boulle's original workshop." If used in connection with furniture not made by André-Charles Boulle, it would be deceptively misdescriptive.

Applicant maintained that its mark is only “suggestive of the quality of craftsmanship and detail associated with André-Charles Boulle work and legacy,” but that assertion was belied by the use of the proposed mark at the website of applicant's affiliate (see depiction above) and its own Pinterest board.

Prospective consumers, viewing the board labeled “André-Charles Boulle/Jean Boulle Luxury Group,” will believe that Applicant sells genuine André-Charles Boulle goods. If true, the proposed mark is merely descriptive. If false, the designation is deceptively misdescriptive.

And so the Board affirmed the refusal(s) under Section 2(e)(1)

Read comments and post your comment here.

TTABlogger comment: There's a lot of history in the background to this case.

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2020.


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