TMEP 1301.02(b): Names of Characters or Personal Names as Service Marks

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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1301.02(b)    Names of Characters or Personal Names as Service Marks

Under 15 U.S.C. §1127, a name or design of a character does not function as a service mark, unless it identifies and distinguishes services in addition to identifying the character.  If the name or design is used only to identify the character, it is not registrable as a service mark. In re Hechinger Inv. Co. of Del., 24 USPQ2d 1053 (TTAB 1991) (design of dog appearing in advertisement does not function as mark for retail hardware and housewares services); In re McDonald’s Corp., 229 USPQ 555 (TTAB 1985) (APPLE PIE TREE does not function as mark for restaurant services, where the specimen shows use of mark only to identify one character in a procession of characters); In re Whataburger Sys., Inc., 209 USPQ 429 (TTAB 1980) (design of zoo animal character distributed to restaurant customers in the form of an iron-on patch not used in a manner that would be perceived as an indicator of source); In re Burger King Corp., 183 USPQ 698 (TTAB 1974) (fanciful design of king does not serve to identify and distinguish restaurant services).  See TMEP §1202.10 regarding the registrability of the names and designs of characters in creative works.

Similarly, personal names (actual names and pseudonyms) of individuals or groups function as marks only if they identify and distinguish the services recited and not merely the individual or group. In re Mancino, 219 USPQ 1047 (TTAB 1983) (holding that BOOM BOOM would be viewed by the public solely as applicant’s professional boxing nickname and not as an identifier of the service of conducting professional boxing exhibitions); In re Lee Trevino Enters., 182 USPQ 253 (TTAB 1974) (LEE TREVINO used merely to identify a famous professional golfer rather than as a mark to identify and distinguish any services rendered by him); In re Generation Gap Prods., Inc., 170 USPQ 423 (TTAB 1971) (GORDON ROSE used only to identify a particular individual and not as a service mark to identify the services of a singing group).

The name of a character or person is registrable as a service mark if the record shows that it is used in a manner that would be perceived by purchasers as identifying the services in addition to the character or person. In re Fla. Cypress Gardens Inc., 208 USPQ 288 (TTAB 1980) (name CORKY THE CLOWN used on handbills found to function as a mark to identify live performances by a clown, where the mark was used to identify not just the character but also the act or entertainment service performed by the character); In re Carson, 197 USPQ 554 (TTAB 1977) (individual’s name held to function as mark, where specimen showed use of the name in conjunction with a reference to services and information as to the location and times of performances, costs of tickets, and places where tickets could be purchased); In re Ames, 160 USPQ 214 (TTAB 1968) (name of musical group functions as mark, where name was used on advertisements that prominently featured a photograph of the group and gave the name, address, and telephone number of the group’s booking agent); In re Folk, 160 USPQ 213 (TTAB 1968) (THE LOLLIPOP PRINCESS functions as a service mark for entertainment services, namely, telling children’s stories by radio broadcasting and personal appearances).

See TMEP §§1202.09(a) et seq. regarding the registrability of the names and pseudonyms of authors and performing artists, and TMEP §1202.09(b) regarding the registrability of the names of artists used on original works of art.