In re-reading my posts on the misdescriptive Napa wine labeling controversy and pondering whether to start my Anaheim, er, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, relief pitcher on my fantasy baseball team, I am reminded of the “geographically deceptively misdescriptive” bar to U.S. trademark registration. Section 1052(a) of the U.S. Trademark Act prohibits registration on the Principal Register of a mark that consists of or comprises deceptive matter while Section1052(e)(3) prohibits primary registration of a mark that is “primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive” of the goods or services of the applicant.
The test for these two prohibitions are identical and are found in the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure Sections 1210.01(b) and (c), which is as follows: “To support a refusal of registration on the ground that a geographic term is deceptive under §2(a) [or geographically deceptively misdescriptive], the examining attorney must show that:
(1) the primary significance of the mark is a generally known geographic location;
(2) the goods or services do not originate in the place named in the mark ;
(3) purchasers would be likely to believe that the goods or services originate in the geographic place identified in the mark ; and
(4) the misrepresentation is a material factor in the consumer’s decision to buy the goods or use the services .”
The California…er…Anaheim…er…Los Angeles…let’s just call them “The” Angels filed a new trademark registration application for LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last December for “Entertainment services in the nature of professional baseball games and exhibition.” (Serial No. 78/540237). The Trademark Application and Registration Retrieval (TARR) record shows that this application has not yet been examined. Could primary registration of this proposed mark be refused on the grounds that the mark is geographically deceptive or deceptively misdescriptive? Most likely not. First, the primary significance of the mark is the element ANGELS. With regards to the second and third element, it appears The Angels may have thought about the “geographically deceptive” bar and added the correct home city, Anaheim, to the end of the mark to avoid this bar. Adding “Los Angeles”, which is the name of a city and a county northwest of Anaheim, makes the mark confusing but not necessarily deceptive. Lastly, the confusion of the location is not likely a material factor in the consumer, in this case, the fans, decision to buy Angels paraphenalia or purchase tickets to attend the games. As The Angels proved in their recent World Series run, winning is what attracts the fans!