Archive for the ‘Trademark Law – Current Issues’ Category


Watch the Ps & Qs When Representing a Client Before the Trademark Trial & Appeal Board

The Sept. 2, 2022 decision by the Trademark Trial & Appeal Board (TTAB) in Shanghai Zhenglang Technology Co. (SZT), Ltd. v. Superbox is a good reminder than an opposition or cancellation proceeding could be dismissed on procedural technicalities.  The SZT case involved an opposition proceeding commenced by Shanghai Zhenglang Technology to oppose registration of the mark JEWEL HUNTER.

Entitlement to a statutory cause of action, known as standing, must be established in every inter partes case before the TTAB.  The bar is low for establishing standing.  As long as the opposer has a reasonable belief that it would be proximately damaged by registration of the mark and therefore has a real interest in the proceedings, standing will be established.  Indeed, the TTAB infrequently dismisses an opposition or cancellation proceeding on lack of standing grounds.  Plaintiff has the burden of establishing standing.

SZT opposed the registration of the Applicant’s mark on the ground of likelihood of confusion based on its alleged prior common law rights in the mark JEWEL HUNTER for an online “game app.”  In its notice of opposition, SZT alleged use of the mark in the United States since January 2015 and that its mark is “very famous” in the United States and China.

During the testimony period, SZT filed three different testimony declarations by its president.  Two of them were untimely as they were filed after the close of SZT’s trial period and also did include proof of service.  The second one was made of the record and considered by the TTAB while the third was not.  And this is where things get interesting.

Under its rules of procedure, witness testimony may be submitted in the form of a sworn affidavit or an unsworn declaration under Trademark Rule 2.20.  Rule 2.20 provides that “[i]nstead of an oath, affidavit, or sworn statement, the language of 28 U.S.C. § 1746, or the following declaration language may be used:

The signatory being warned that willful false statements and the like are punishable by fine or imprisonment, or both, under 18 U.S.C. § 1001 and that such willful false statements and like may jeopardize the validity of the application submission or any registration resulting therefrom, declares that all statements made of his/her own knowledge are true and all statements made on information and belief are believed to be true.

Neither of the “of record” declarations by SZT’s president included the above language.  Accordingly, the following language of 28 U.S.C. § 1746 was the language that should have been included in the shown statement:

I declare (or certify, verify, or state) under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America that the foregoing is true and correct.  Executed on (date).

Instead, the purported declarations, executed in Shanghai, China, stated, “I…declare under penalty of perjury the following to be true” and concluded with the following: “The above statements were translated to me in my primary language, Mandarin.  I fully understand and under penalty of perjury, the above statements are true and correct.”

The purported declarations thus missed the essential reference to the United States.  As the TTAB has explained, “[w]hen a person executes a document outside the United States, a reference to which country’s perjury laws will be applied provides no assurance of truthfulness because the penalty of perjury may be nonexistent or trivial in the place where the person signed the document.”   As such, the First and Second declarations did not comply with the requirements for declaration testimony under U.S. law and were not considered by the TTAB.

As a result of their faultiness, the declarations could not be used to determine if the opposer had standing. Standing cannot be established on mere allegations in its complaint or arguments in its proof to prove entitlement to maintain an opposition proceeding.  Additionally, the TTAB noted that even if they had considered the Internet printouts which were attached to the first two declarations, website printouts are hearsay and have little probative value when it comes to establishing an Opposer’s entitlement.  Without authentication, such printouts can only be used to demonstrate what the documents show on their face, not the truth of what has been printed.  Accordingly, the Plaintiff could not prove that it was entitled to bring the opposition proceeding and the opposition was dismissed.


The decision is a good example of how failure to pay attention to the rules of the agency or court in which a proceeding is filed can have detrimental consequences.   It appears that the Plaintiff’s attorney did not read the rules – proof of service was not provided and the declarations were faulty.  Also, filing deadlines were missed.   Although the proceeding was dismissed on lack of standing grounds, the decision also suggests that plaintiff’s evidence was insufficient for establishing the requisite harm required for preventing registration of applicant’s mark.

Take Home Points

  • It’s important to hire an attorney who has experience in opposition and other proceedings before the TTAB and is well-versed in administrative rules and the law.
  • Where a declaration is to be executed outside of the United States for presentation before the TTAB, be sure that it includes the proper language for subjecting the declarant or affiant to the perjury laws of the United States.  Also for any court proceeding.  We recently represented a defendant from Greece in a lawsuit filed in a Florida court where an  affidavit was executed in Athens with the language of 28 U.S.C. § 1746.
  • Where a declaration is to be signed in the U.S. for presentation to a foreign IP office or court, be sure that it is executed in compliance with the foreign country’s laws.



Copyrighted 2022

Troy & Schwartz, LLC




Last week’s blog provided information on the Supplemental Register as part of its discussion on the Trademark Trial & Appeal’s Board’s refusal to register the generic mark FELATI on even the Supplemental Register.  That blog briefly referred to the fact that merely descriptive marks may be registered on the Principal Register if: 1) they are found to be suggestive rather than merely descriptive; or 2) have become distinctive.  Otherwise, merely descriptive marks may be registered on the Supplemental Register.  For registration on either register, the examiner must have concluded that there is no likelihood of confusion with an existing registered mark.

This blog goes into depth as to what constitutes a merely descriptive mark by discussing the Board’s affirmance of the examining attorney’s Section 2(e)(1) refusal to register the proposed word mark SMART BEZEL.  In re Zuma Array Limited, 2020 USPQ2d 736 (TTAB 2022) [precedential]. The opinion is instructive because it is a reminder that a proposed mark that describes the intended use or purpose of the goods may be a merely descriptive mark.  In other words, the definition of a merely descriptive mark is not confined to those marks which merely describe a characteristic of the specified goods or services, e.g., CHUNKY CHOCOLATE for ice cream.


 Section 2(e)(1) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1052(e)(1), prohibits registration on the Principal Register of “a mark which, (1) when used on or in connection with the goods of the applicant is merely descriptive . . . of them,” unless the mark has acquired distinctiveness under Section 2(f) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1052(f).  A merely descriptive mark which has acquired distinctiveness according to the USPTO’s requirements may file for registration of the mark on the Principal Register under Section 2(f).  If the mark is instead registered on the Supplemental Register, the registrant may later seek registration on the Principal Register if and when the merely descriptive mark acquires the required level of distinctiveness for such registration.

Here the Applicant’s identified goods under IC class 009 were for “electronic sensor modules for controlling and integrating home automation systems, including lighting and thermal control apparatus, energy control devices and household appliances, smart plugs, smart sockets for electric lights, electronic appliances and smart switches, audio and loudspeakers, alarms, and other security control apparatus and home monitoring equipment; electronic sensor modules for controlling and integrating smart lighting systems and smart heating systems; component parts and fittings for the aforesaid goods.”

In rejecting the mark SMART BEZEL on merely descriptive grounds, the examining attorney relied on: 1) the dictionary definition of the adjective “smart” in this context as using a built-in microprocessor for automatic operation, for processing of data, or for achieving greater versatility;” a dictionary definition of the word “bezel” as the “outer frame of a computer screen, mobile phone, or other electronic device;” and an article about a patent held by Apple where the article states the invention enabled Apple to create a “smart bezel.”  Slip opinion @ 2.  The Applicant acknowledged that “smart” is defined as “using a built-in microprocessor” and the word “bezel” refers to “the outer frame of a computer screen, mobile phone or other electronic device.” However, it also asserted, “none of the applied for goods … feature a ‘bezel’ at all.”     The Examining Attorney, on the other hand, maintained that the proposed mark immediately conveys information about the goods because Zuma’s sensors are designed to be incorporated into the bezels of various electronic appliances and lighting and heating systems, “to render the bezels … capable of performing automatic operations for processing data or achieving greater versatility.”

The Board discounted the Applicant’s argument, finding the mark to be descriptive of a use or purpose of the goods’ modules, and thus ineligible for registration without proof of acquired distinctiveness.  In reaching its conclusion, the Board took a somewhat different tack by focusing on the nature of the Applicant’s “electronic sensor modules.”  First, the Board took judicial notice that a “module”  is “a usually packaged functional assembly of electronic components for use with … other assemblies.”  Second, the Board then relied on the wording in the Applicant’s own website to conclude that the proposed mark, by describing the intended use or purpose of the goods with which it is used, is merely descriptive.  For example, the Applicant’s website states that “swap[ping] out a standard bezel for a Smart Bezel (TM)” enables homeowners to access a wide range of built-in sensors to support environmental, presence and life safety operations.”  Slip opinion at 15.  Citing precedent, the Board emphasized that “[P]roof of mere descriptiveness may originate from [the] applicant’s own descriptive use of its proposed mark,  or portions thereof” in its materials and “an applicant’s own website and marketing materials may be  . . . ‘the most damaging evidence’ in indicating how the relevant purchasing public perceives a term.’”  Slip opinion at 14.

Accordingly, the Board concluded that the word BEZEL refers to the type of device on which Zuma’s sensors will be used.  The commercial context of Applicant’s use of its proposed mark on its website “demonstrates that a consumer would immediately understand the intended meaning of” SMART BEZEL for electronic sensor modules, namely, that the modules are used to create a “smart bezel.”

The commentator notes that the Applicant should now have the option of seeking registration on the Supplemental Register.

Take Home Points

  1. Trademark law is complex. As this decision demonstrates, a merely descriptive analysis involves an evaluation of whether the proposed mark describes a particular characteristic of the specified goods/services and/or the intended usage of the proposed mark.  Many applicants are focused on a likelihood of analysis rejection and not familiar with other types of registration rejections.  Accordingly, a proposed mark that is not rejected on likelihood of confusion grounds may still be rejected on merely descriptive or generic grounds as the Zuma Array decision demonstrates.
  2. The USPTO may look beyond the Principal Register other registered marks to ascertain whether a mark is merely descriptive. Here, the examining attorney and the Board used dictionary definitions, a patent document, and the Applicant’s own website to find that the mark was merely descriptive.
  3. Interestingly there was no evidence that third parties were descriptively using “smart bezel” for the application’s specified goods. Although such proof can be highly relevant to a merely descriptive analysis, such lack of proof was of no consequence in the Zuma Array decision.  “The fact that Applicant may be the first or only user of a term does not render the term distinctive if, as here, it has been shown to be merely descriptive of the goods identified in the application.”  Slip opinion at 12.  The commentator notes that Applicant may be able to establish distinctiveness in the future by, e.g., by providing satisfactory evidence that the consumer has come to associate the mark with the Applicant as the provider of the goods.

In Need of Legal Counsel on Trademark Matters and Other Intellectual Property Matters?

Contact Susan Troy, the author of this blog and all of the IP law blogs posted at this website, at 305-279-4740.  She will assist you in determining whether your proposed brand is synergistic with the legal requirements for obtaining a registered trademark.


© 2022 by Troy & Schwartz, LLC






On July 7, 2022, in In re Lana Grossa mode mit Wolle Handels-und Vertriebs GmbH, the Trademark Trial & Appeal Board (the “Board”) held that a mark utilizing the Italian word for yarn, Filati, could not be registered because the mark is generic and thus incapable of registration.

The opinion is instructive because it covers several matters pertinent to trademark registration that often take a backseat to the far more common likelihood-of-confusion registration issues.  This blog summarizes the take home points from Lana Grossa wherein the Applicant sought registration of the mark FILATI on the Supplement Register as a generic mark.

  1.  Some Background on the Supplemental Register.

The Supplemental Register (“SR”) offers legal protections to a lesser extent than the Principal Register.  SR can thus be a viable alternative to registration on the Principal Register if an applied-for mark is rejected on merely descriptive/generic grounds providing the proposed mark passes a likelihood of confusion analysis by the examining attorney.  Indeed, examining attorneys may recommend that the original application be amended to a “Supplemental Registration” application if the applied-for mark is not rejected on likelihood of confusion grounds. One can also initially apply for registration on the Supplemental Register as did the FILATI mark Applicant but such an application will nevertheless be examined to see if it qualifies for such registration.   Additionally, a “Supplemental Registered” mark may later qualify for registration on the Principal Register if the registrant can establish that the mark has become distinctive in the minds of consumers.

2.  A Mark Comprising a Foreign Word Will Not Overcome Potential Registration Issues.

Over the years, the commentator has encountered clients who mistakenly believe that using a foreign word as a mark for service(s) or good(s) provided in the U.S will eliminate registration problems.   This assumption is a fallacy.  First, trademark applications require the applicant to provide a translation of the foreign word.

Second, under the doctrine of equivalents, the foreign equivalent of a registered arbitrary English word mark may result in a finding of likelihood of confusion.  For example, a proposed mark for MANZANA (Spanish for apple) as an arbitrary mark for computers would clearly not be registrable in today’s “Apple Brand” world.

Moreover, a merely descriptive or generic foreign word mark is no more registrable than its English counter-part. As the Lana Grossa opinion states:  “[A] word taken from a well-known foreign modern language, which is, itself, merely descriptive of a product or service will be so considered when it is attempted to be registered as a trademark in the United States for the same product.”   The doctrine is, however, to be applied only when it is likely that the ordinary American purchaser who is knowledgeable in the foreign language would stop and translate the foreign word into its English equivalent.  The FILATI mark applicant had argued that the mark was merely descriptive and eligible for registration on the SR.

As a result of various websites and publications accessible in the U.S. promoting a premier international Italian yarn (as “Filati”) event, the Board concluded that the relevant U.S. consumers, particularly those with knowledge of Italian, will translate the word “Filati” into “yarn.” As such, the word “Filati” is a generic term for yarn and cannot be registered on the Supplemental Register.

As discussed above, a merely descriptive foreign word may be registered on the Supplemental Register.  A merely descriptive mark is one which describes a desirable characteristic of the specified good/service.  For example, In In re Geo. A. Hormel & Co., 227 USPQ 813 (TTAB 1985), the Board held that the applied-for mark SAPORITO, an Italian word meaning “tasty,” was merely descriptive and ineligible for registration on the Principal Register.   Interestingly the SAPORITO mark was originally registered in 1973 on the Supplemental Register by a company other than Hormel.  Reg. no. 952,895.   In 1989, that same company was able to achieve registration on the Principal Registration by showing that the mark had acquired distinctiveness and recognition by the buying public.  Reg. no. 1573637 obtained under Section 2(F) of the Lanham Act.

  1. The Stylized Lettering in FILATI Is Insufficient for Creating a Distinct Commercial Impression Separate and Apart from the Generic Word Itself.

Having found that the mark FILATI is generic, the Board next determined if the Applicant’s stylized drawing of the word mark is so distinctive that it is possible to disclaim the unregistrable components and still have a registrable mark as a whole.  Generic matter within an applied-for mark, whether the mark is to be registered on the Principal Register or the Supplemental Register, must generally be disclaimed. Here, the entire mark itself (i.e. (“Filati”) would need to be disclaimed.  Yet, an entire mark cannot be disclaimed.  TMEP § 1213.06 (2022).   The Board concluded that the FILATI mark does not create a distinct commercial impression separate and apart from the word itself.   As such the mark was not registrable on the Supplemental Register.  To understand the Board’s reasoning, compare the registered mark CONSTRUCT A CLOSET, where the stylistic rendering of the mark was found to be distinctive, with the unregistrable FILATI mark.

  1. Take Home Points.

Trademark law is not as simple as it may seem as this decision shows.   This is why a trademark attorney should be consulted so that the registration risks can be understood and discussed.  Why spend a lot of money on building brand where legal protection may well not even be available?   Contact Susan Troy at 305-279-4740 for a complimentary consultation on your branding legal requirements.





Troy & Schwartz, LLC

Where Legal Meets Entrepreneurship™

 (305) 279-4740








As part of a new branding trend, a growing number of companies (e.g., Burberry London England) are trending towards using more austere logos, i.e., logos which are designed to blend in and not stand out.  The trend seems contrary to the very purpose of trademark law where trademarked brands and logos have traditionally derived their value from their ability to enable consumers to readily identify the source of a product sold in brick-and-mortar stores.   Moreover, the display of branded products in brick and mortar stores selling multiple brands is often the luck of the “space” and “shelf” location.  Accordingly, more intricate, readily-identifiable logos brands sold in physical locations such as department stores are often seen as an essential marketing tactic to make the brand standout amongst competing brands.

The blanding trend has largely been attributed to the digital economy wherein goods and services are advertised and increasingly sold across multiple trade channels including social media, websites, and billboards.   Brands viewable on-line are often clearer and immediately recognizable compared to their presentation in a bricks and mortar store where they may be surrounded by competing brands.   Even Google, Inc. has modernized its logo over the years; its current type face makes the logo look clean and modern.  Such brand modernization is viewed by blanding proponents as a way to scale in today’s rapidly changing business climate driven by technology.

The following is an illustration of blanding.

     !YAZOW!    YAZOW

If you are in the process of developing a new brand or considering updating your brand to a bland, what are the factors you should consider before you jump on the bland bandwagon?

  1. For a new brand, would it be preferable to utilize a logo which stands out from the competition? Do you want to use a logo that looks a lot like the logos of other companies in your industry?
  2. For an existing brand, is your brand associated with goodwill and immediate recognition in the relevant market? That is, have you demonstrated your commitment to building the original brand by your actions which made your brand stand out from the competition?  If yes, the time may be opportune to bland by dialing back on your brand’s uniqueness to better encompass your company’s current direction.  You should have a good understanding of the potential response to a change in a previously-held logo recognized and beloved by consumers.  Will the change inadvertently suggest that you’ve changed the nature of the good/service and not for the better?
  3. If your brand is a registered trademark, will the bland still reflect the commercial impression of the brand as it was trademarked and used in interstate commerce? If not, the registered trademark status could be in jeopardy.   The brand owner may be able to rely on the legal doctrine of “tacking” in a later registered trademark procurement matter or infringement matter which allows the mark owner to “ ‘clothe a new mark with the priority position of an older mark’ ” providing the original brand and the bland are legally equivalent.  Click here for a previous blog on tacking.   The establishment of legal equivalency requires that the brand and bland marks “ ‘create the same, continuing commercial impression such that the consumer would consider them both to be the same mark.’ ”
  4. For trademark registration maintenance purposes, will the bland mark meet the requirements for maintaining the mark’s status as a previously registered mark because they are legally equivalent?

Take-Home Points

  1. Don’t rush into a bland brand without understanding the consequences. Be careful in particular about the potential loss of registered trademark rights in a prior logo or a stylized word mark.
  2. Unless there is a commercial/marketing purpose for not doing so,  initially register the brand at least as a plain word mark with no stylistic elements claimed. The marks distinctiveness will thus rest on the word itself rather than any stylization of the word(s) or a logo. Changes, made in e.g., the font should not defeat the distinctiveness of the plain word mark from a trademark law perspective.  Many of the commentator’s clients file 2 applications – one for the plain word mark and one for a design mark which may incorporate the word mark.





Troy & Schwartz, LLC

Where Legal Meets Entrepreneurship™

(305) 279-4740





Opinion Background & Discussion – In re Dare Foods, Inc.

Trademark blogs often focus on detailing decisions by the Trademark Trial & Appeal Board (“TTAB”) and the courts over whether a mark should be approved for registration or not based on the likelihood confusion with an existing registered mark.  However, trademark law provides a mechanism through which two registered marks having different owners can co-exist.  How is this possible? Because the mechanism involves a co-existence or consent agreement between a registered mark owner and an applicant.  As the Federal Circuit Court of Appeal’s predecessor court stated in the 1973 seminal Dupont case,

[W]hen those most familiar with use in the marketplace and most interested in precluding confusion enter agreements designed to avoid it, the scales of [likelihood of confusion] evidence are clearly tilted.  It is at least difficult to maintain a subjective view that confusion will occur when those directly concerned say it won’t.  A mere assumption confusion is likely will rarely prevail against uncontroverted evidence from those on the firing line that it is not.

The cited wording pertains to Dupont factor #10 in a likelihood of analysis determination which was referred by the Dupont court as the “market interface” factor.

On March 29, 2022, the TTAB recently reversed the examining attorney’s refusal to register the mark RAINCOAST DIP for “snack food dips” in view of the registered mark RAINCOAST TRADING for seafood products on likelihood of confusion grounds.  Note that the USPTO routinely finds likelihood of confusion problems with a registered mark and an applied-for mark where both marks have the same word as the first word (the aspect of the mark consumers are most apt to focus on) when the same or related goods/services are involved.  For example, the TTAB itself found that the involved goods were related because “it is not uncommon for snack food dips as well as seafood and seafood snacks to emanate from the same source.”    It was thus not surprising that the examining attorney found likelihood of confusion because the marks are more similar than dissimilar in appearance, and sounds, and “particularly connotation and commercial impression.”  The TTAB agreed.

However, the TTAB found that the examining attorney had failed to give proper credence to a 2013 agreement between the parties’ predecessors.  That agreement was detailed and covered the typical factors the TTAB will look at in determining whether the agreement meets at least the following requirements:

  1. Shows agreement between both parties;
  2. Whether the agreement includes a clear indication that the goods or services travel in separate trade channels;
  3. Whether the parties agree to restrict their fields of use;
  4. Whether the parties will make efforts to prevent confusion and cooperate and take steps to avoid any confusion that may arise in the future;
  5. And whether the marks have been used for a period of time without evidence of actual confusion.

Simple agreements, which some sarcastically refer to as “naked agreements”, will not qualify as suitable co-existence/consent agreements.  Here, the TTAB concluded that the parties had entered into a detailed agreement with sufficient parameters for allowing the existence of the two registered marks.

This commentator has drafted detailed co-existence/consent agreements resulting in registration of an applied-for mark.  One fact that can be helpful is when the goods/services are provided in a different geographical market.  For example, this type of agreement was entered into between a Florida eatery (the commentator’s client) and an Oregon eatery. Obviously, the registered mark owner must be willing to enter into such an agreement.  Had the Oregon eatery instead been a Georgia-based company owned by a franchisor who planned to open franchise restaurants in Florida and across the Southeast, the possibility of obtaining a “USPTO-acceptable” co-existence/consent agreement would likely have been more difficult because of the stronger possibility of overlapping trade channels.

Take Home Point

A properly-drafted, accurate co-existence/consent agreement with appropriate provisions may allow an applied-for mark to be registered by the USPTO even where the applied-for mark would not otherwise be registered on the basis of its likelihood of confusion with the registered mark.

In Need of Legal Counsel on Trademark Matters?

Contact Susan at 305-279-4740 if you have any questions about co-existence/consent agreements or any other matter related to trademark law.




© 2022 by Troy & Schwartz, LLC





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