TMEP 1202.06(a): Goods Must Have Utility to Others

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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1202.06(a)    Goods Must Have Utility to Others

Affixing a mark to an item that is transported in commerce does not in and of itself establish that the mark is used on "goods." While a formal sale is not always necessary, items sold or transported in commerce are not "goods in trade" unless they have utility to others as the type of product named in the trademark application.

Example: Holiday greeting cards sent by a law firm to its clients are not "goods," where applicant is merely sending its own cards through the mail as a holiday greeting, and the cards are not suitable for use by the recipients as a greeting card.

See Gay Toys, Inc. v. McDonald’s Corp., 585 F.2d 1067, 199 USPQ 722 (C.C.P.A. 1978) (plaster mockup of toy truck not goods in trade where there is no evidence the mockup is actually used as a toy); Paramount Pictures Corp. v. White, 31 USPQ2d 1768 (TTAB 1994), aff’d, 108 F.3d 1392 (Fed. Cir. 1997) (mark not registrable for games, where purported games are advertising flyers used to promote applicant’s services and have no real utilitarian function or purpose as games); In re Douglas Aircraft Co., 123 USPQ 271 (TTAB 1959) (books, pamphlets, and brochures that serve only to explain and advertise the goods in which applicant deals are not "goods"). Cf. In re Snap-On Tools Corp., 159 USPQ 254 (TTAB 1968) (ball point pens used to promote applicant’s tools are goods in trade, where they have a utilitarian function and purpose, and have been sold to applicant’s franchised dealers and transported in commerce under mark); In re United Merchants & Mfrs., Inc., 154 USPQ 625 (TTAB 1967) (calendar used to promote applicant’s plastic film constitutes goods in trade, where calendar has a utilitarian function and purpose in and of itself, and has been regularly distributed in commerce for several years).

In In re MGA Entm’t, Inc., 84 USPQ2d 1743, 1746 (TTAB 2007), the Board rejected applicant’s argument that trapezoidal cardboard boxes for toys, games, playthings, puzzles, and laptop play units have use beyond holding the goods at the point of sale, in that the laptop play-unit box functions as an ongoing carrying case for the unit, and the puzzle box may be used to store puzzle pieces when not in use. Finding the boxes to be merely point-of-sale containers for the primary goods and not separate goods in trade, the Board stated that "the mere fact that original boxes or packaging may be used to store products does not infuse such boxes or packaging with additional utility such that they constitute goods in trade," and that there is neither any indication that the laptop computer boxes are labeled as a carrying case nor any evidence that applicant promotes the boxes as carrying cases or that children actually use them as carrying cases.