Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Is it scandalous? Look in the dictionary!

Is the design of a bottle, shaped to resemble a hand flipping the bird (a hand with the middle finger extended), scandalous and therefore not subject to trademark registration in the U.S.? Here is the proposed mark:

Luxuria, s.r.o. sought to register the mark depicted by the shape of the above bottle. The examining attorney took the position that this proposed mark is scandalous and not entitled to registration in the U.S. The matter was appealed to the TTAB, and the refusal to register was affirmed. The TTAB, citing existing law, confirmed that scandalous material cannot be registered, and confirmed further that vulgar material is scandalous for purposes of denying registration. Of note, the TTAB held that for purposes of defining whether material is scandalous, the PTO examiner can rely on dictionary definitions alone.
Dictionary definitions alone, if a term has no other meaning, are sufficient to satisfy the Office’s burden of showing that the mark is scandalous to a substantial composite of the general public.
Indeed, the examining attorney cited to several dictionary definitions of giving the bird to establish that, as far as lexicographers are concerned, the gesture is scandalous. So there you have it. If you can't tell whether material is or is not scandalous, look in the dictionary.

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