Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Precedential No. 44: TEAM JESUS Fails to Function as a Source Indicator for Clothing and Religion-Related Services, Says TTAB

In yet another in a continuing stream of failure-to-function rulings, the Board upheld a refusal to register the proposed mark TEAM JESUS for clothing items and educational and entertainment services promoting religion, under Sections 1, 2, 3, and 45 of the Trademark Act. The Board pointed out once again that "[m]atter that is widely used to convey ordinary or familiar concepts or sentiments, or social, political, religious, or similar informational messages that are in common use, would not be perceived as indicating source and is not registrable as a mark." In re Team Jesus LLC, 2020 USPQ2d 11489 (TTAB 2020) [precedential] (Opinion by Judge Cynthia C. Lynch).

Applicant's specimen of use

Examining Attorney Omolayo Adebayo submitted numerous examples evidencing general use, in a variety of contexts, of the phrase TEAM JESUS to convey a Christian affiliation: including at various religious websites, in media articles, on many t-shirts, and on bracelets (see below), lanyards, and buttons.

The Board found that, in light of the nature of use of the phrase TEAM JESUS, including on apparel from many sources, “it does not create the commercial impression of a source indicator, even when displayed on a hangtag or label.” D.C. One Wholesaler, Inc., 120 USPQ2d at 1716.

The record in this case demonstrates the “ubiquity of the phrase [TEAM JESUS] … on apparel and other [goods] of many makers,” D.C. One Wholesaler, 120 USPQ2d at 1716, as well as in connection with educational and entertainment services. In addition, Applicant’s specimen for its own Class 41 services reinforces the nature of TEAM JESUS as a message of affiliation by referring to Christians generally as part of “Team Jesus.” We find that consumers will not perceive the widely-used message TEAM JESUS as distinguishing Applicant’s goods and services in commerce and indicating their source.

Applicant Team Jesus LLC claimed that the third-party uses on were actually evidence of use of the phrase as a trademark. The Board disagreed, observing that most of the third-party clothing evidence "shows use of TEAM JESUS in an ornamental manner, such as the t-shirts shown above with the words emblazoned in large letters across the front, presumably offered for consumers who want to convey their Christian affiliation by wearing apparel that prominently proclaims that message. See Mayweather Promotions, 2020 USPQ2d 11298, at *4."

The Board therefore affirmed the refusal to register.

Read comments and post your comment here.

TTABlogger comment: This decision doesn't add much to TTAB jurisprudence, does it? Same old citations with the same old quotations. Why is it precedential? God only knows.

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2020.


At 9:29 PM, Anonymous Carole Barrett said...


At 9:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have they ever addressed a failure to function involving services before? Usually it's goods.

At 9:45 AM, Blogger John L. Welch said...

Yes. For example, the motion mark in "The Ride" case, and the .SUCKS case.


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