The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the Patent Trial & Appeal Board’s refusal to register a mark, finding that an unchallenged, detailed declaration by the opposing company’s director sufficed as substantial evidence of prior use. Jalmar Araujo v. Framboise Holdings, Inc., Case No. 23-1142 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 30, 2024) (Lourie, Linn, Stoll, JJ.)

On December 3, 2019, Jalmar Araujo filed an application to register #TODECACHO as a standard character mark for hair combs. Framboise Holdings filed an opposition on the grounds that Araujo’s mark would likely cause confusion with its #TODECACHO design mark (below).

Framboise Holdings alleged that it owned the mark based on its prior use of it in connection with various hair products since March 24, 2017. Framboise also filed its own application for registration of its design mark on April 14, 2020, claiming the same date of first use.

On October 18, 2021, the final day on which Framboise could submit its case in chief to the Board, it moved for a seven-day extension. Four days after filing the motion, it served Araujo with the declaration of Framboise Director Adrian Extrakt. Although it was the testimony of a single interested party, the Board found Extrakt’s declaration alone to be convincing evidence of prior use. His declaration provided a list of products and dates of first use, as well as examples of the mark displayed on products in stores. After the Board sustained the opposition, Araujo appealed.

Araujo argued that the Board abused its discretion in granting Framboise an extension of the trial period, and that the Board’s finding that Framboise established prior use of the #TODECACHO design mark was not supported by substantial evidence. The Federal Circuit disagreed.

The Federal Circuit concluded that the Board had not abused its discretion in granting Framboise an extension because it identified and applied the correct good cause standard and “reasonably found good cause to grant the extension.” The Court also found that the Board was correct in finding that Extrakt’s declaration alone was sufficient evidence to support a priority date of March 24, 2017, based on evidence of the design mark’s use in connection with various hair products. The Court noted that the declaration did not simply consist of “naked general assertions of prior use,” but contained evidence. Araujo neither deposed Extrakt nor offered any evidence to dispute his claims. Hence, Extrakt’s declaration sufficed to meet the applicable preponderance of the evidence standard.

Practice Note: Oral or written testimony, even when offered by an interested party, can establish priority of use in a trademark proceeding if it is sufficiently detailed, is supported by exhibits and is convincing.

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