May 30, 2018

A Teerrrriiffiiccc Trademark

By Joel R. Samuels, Associate

On May 9, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed the refusal to register CCC in standard characters for “drinking bottles; drinking bottles for sports; drink receptacles in the form of bottles; bottles sold empty.”

The refusal was issued under Section 2(d) based on the prior registration of the stylized mark for “plastic containers, such as bottles and the like.” The Board found that applied for goods and the registered goods were identical, that the channels of trade and customers overlapped and that the conditions of sale were neutral. The crux of the decision focused on Applicant’s argument that the marks were different in appearance and connotation.

According to Applicant, consumers would view the registered mark as “three concentric circles, rather than three letter C’s.” Moreover, the arches in the cited mark were “too circular” to be viewed as letters “C.” Additionally, the registered mark is “more reminiscent of the copyright symbol” and thus “consumers would likely perceive it to be a certification mark.”

The Board was not amused. Although noting that “the cited mark is highly stylized,” the Board noted that consumers could view the cited mark as “CCC” or “at the very least, a series of nested letters ‘C’.” Further, Applicant sought to register “CCC” in standard characters, meaning that it could use the mark in any format, “including versions identical to the stylized registered mark.”

In another segment of the “if you’re in a hole, stop digging” series, Applicant contended that the letters CCC are arbitrary as to the registered goods, but are an acronym for “compressed catalytic carbon” when applied to Applicant’s goods.

You’re not alone if you’re thinking “Wait a minute, I thought the applied for goods were drinking bottles, how did we get to catalytic carbon?” Well, Applicant asserted that this “relates to the [carbon] filter technology associated with the goods” and “consumers will grasp the meaning because carbon is the most frequently used filtration technology.”

The Board did not drink the Applicant’s flavored beverage. Instead, the Board noted “there is no evidence of record that “CCC” is a recognized acronym for ‘Compressed Catalytic Carbon.’” Instead, the cite mark would appear to consumers (and literary geese spelling “terrific”) “as merely the letters ‘CCC’.” Accordingly, the refusal was affirmed. In re BRITA GmbH, Serial No. 86/796,332 (May 9, 2018).