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Strings Attached: No Amendment for Trademark Application in Inter Partes Opposition Proceeding

The Trademark Trial & Appeal Board (Board) designated as precedential a decision denying a motion to amend and granting partial summary judgment based on a mistaken identification that did not match the goods sold using the trademark. Fender Musical Instruments Corporation v. Win-D-Fender, LLC, Opp. No. 91272326 (TTAB Sept. 22, 2022) (designated precedential Jan. 12, 2023) (Wolfson, Heasley, Cogins, ATJs) (By the Board).

Win-D-Fender applied for a trademark to register the mark EN-D-FENDER for “musical instruments.” Fender opposed this registration on grounds of nonuse, likelihood of confusion and dilution by blurring and filed a motion for summary judgment on the ground of nonuse. Win-D-Fender then filed a motion to amend the identification of goods in its application from “musical instruments” to “musical instrument accessories, namely, an ambient wind foot joint guard for flute family instruments.”

The Board first considered Win-D-Fender’s motion to amend. Under the relevant trademark rules, an application that is subject to an inter partes proceeding may only be amended if the other party consents (Fender did not) and the Board gives approval, or if the Board grants a motion to amend.

Win-D-Fender filed its application via the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS). In a TEAS application, only the goods listed in the proper field can be considered for the identification of goods and broadening the scope of the identification is not permitted. In Win-D-Fender’s application, the only goods listed in the “Identification” field were “musical instruments.” Win-D-Fender argued that its application included a miscellaneous statement reading, “For Musical Instrument Accessories namely a wind guard mounted to a flute.” The Board determined, however, that the description was not in the proper field and therefore was not considered in the identified goods. The Board explained that the TEAS Plus instructions warn applicants to not use the TEAS Plus “Identification” field if it does not contain an accurate listing of the goods and services and to instead use the TEAS Standard filing option. The Board noted that although the identification of “musical instruments” may have been a mistake, it is settled that an established identification cannot later be expanded. The Board concluded that Win-D-Fender was limited to amendments that would narrow or clarify the type of “musical instruments.”

Win-D-Fender also argued that musical instrument accessories would fall under the general umbrella of musical instruments. The Board stated that while musical instruments may use accessories, the accessories themselves are not musical instruments and are not encompassed in the “musical instrument” class. The Board, therefore, denied the motion to amend the identification of goods.

The Board next considered Fender’s motion for summary judgment on the ground of nonuse. An application based on use of the mark in commerce is void if the mark was not used in commerce in connection with the goods identified in the application. As the Board had already decided, Win-D-Fender’s mark was limited to musical instruments and did not include accessories. Fender specifically pointed to an interrogatory response in which Win-D-Fender stated that the products sold under the [...]

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Long Live the Kingpin: No Abandonment Based on Nonuse During Drug Sanctions Period

In a precedential decision, the Trademark Trial & Appeal Board (Board) dismissed an opposition, finding that the trademark applicant’s long period of nonuse due to government sanctions was excusable nonuse and not abandonment. ARSA Distributing, Inc. v. Salud Natural Mexicana S.A. de C.V., Opposition No. 91240240, 91243700 (TTAB Sept. 28, 2022) (Taylor, Greenbaum, English, ATJ)

Salud sought a trademark registration of the standard character mark EUCALIN for “pharmaceutical products, namely, vitamin supplements, nutritional supplement made with a syrup with jelly base, honey base, and with a mixture of plants with propolis base, and herbal remedies in the nature of herbal supplements,” and the composite mark set forth below for “herbal supplements; nutritional supplements; vitamin supplements.”

ARSA opposed the registration, alleging prior common law use of the mark EUCALIN for “dietary and nutritional supplements.” ARSA argued that its sales and advertising of its EUCALIN product from 2008 to October 6, 2015, and October 9, 2017, established that ARSA had used its EUCALIN mark long before the constructive use filing dates of Salud’s application. Thus, ARSA had priority of use of the EUCALIN mark on nutritional and dietary supplements.

In response, Salud asserted it had priority in the EUCALIN mark based on use since 1999. Salud argued that between 1999 and October 2008, ARSA was Salud’s US distributor and, therefore, all goodwill for any EUCALIN-labeled product went to Salud as the supplier of the goods and products.

ARSA asserted that there was no distribution agreement between the parties, but even if Salud “could have reasonably claimed rights based on some alleged distribution agreement before 2008,” Salud “has long since abandoned any rights it would have had.” ARSA asserted that Salud was legally banned from conducting business in the United States between October 2, 2008, and May 2015 because it was declared a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker (SDNT). ARSA argued that Salud failed to produce any evidence establishing that it had concrete plans or intent to resume use between 2008 and 2015.

The Board found that there was no clear manufacturing-distribution agreement between the parties, and therefore there was a rebuttable presumption that the manufacturer (Salud) owned the mark. The Board explained that the following six factors are considered in determining which party has superior rights:

  1. Which party created and first affixed the mark to the product
  2. Which party’s name appeared with the trademark on packaging and promotional materials
  3. Which party maintained the quality and uniformity of the product, including technical changes
  4. Which party the consuming public believes stands behind the product (g., the party to which customers direct complaints and contact for correction of defective products)
  5. Which party paid for advertising
  6. What a party represents to others about the source or origin of the product.

The Board concluded that, on the balance, the factors favor Salud. The Board explained that the first, second, third and sixth factors favored Salud because it created the mark and product, maintained quality control [...]

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