Category Archives: Office Actions

Trademark Research: Food and Restaurant Services

You client makes lasagna that it sells under the mark TONY’S PASTA, and their application gets a 2(d) citation to a prior registration for a TONY’S RONI for restaurant services. (The application is imaginary; the registration is real – Reg. No. 3502458). Let’s use TM TKO to do some research to help you find good arguments and evidence to support your Office Action Response, and secondarily marvel at how amazingly inconsistent examination outcomes from the USPTO can be. Onward!

Find Successful Arguments on These Facts

Let’s start by going to the Office Action search page, and searching for recent instances where applicants for food products in Class 29 overcame prior registrations in Class 43. We’ll limit the results to active, published applications where the prior registration is still active first — that will exclude some useful results, but also bypass any situations where the prior registration was “overcome” simply because it was cancelled or expired. It’s a complex-looking search, but conceptually pretty straightforward.

This search finds 336 Office Actions in Class 29 (that didn’t include Class 43) that overcame registrations in Class 43 (that didn’t include Class 29). We can limit even more by restricting it to just pasta – click New Search then Same Criteria, then add a rule to limit our results to just those that have pasta or lasagna in the description of goods.

Now we’re down to 42 results, like TUSCAN MARKET for pasta and retail stores overcoming a registration for TUSCAN KITCHEN for restaurant services and LIFE IS DELICIOUS. SIMPLY ENJOY overcoming a prior registration for LIFE IS DELICIOUS… TAKE A BITE for restaurant services, MARCELLA for pasta sauce overcoming a prior registration for MARCELLA’S for restaurant services, NEXT LEVEL MEALS for food overcoming a prior registration for NEXT LEVEL BURGER for restaurants, and more. Just click on the Citations button for details on the cited marks, and click on the magnifying glass to dive into the file histories. These are great resources to see how other attorneys overcame directly comparable refusals – how they used the case law, how they provided evidentiary support, how they chipped away at the Examining Attorneys’ evidence – so you can take do better work and maximize your own chances of success.

If you want to see the opposite fact pattern – applications for restaurant services overcoming prior registrations for foods – just use the “invert criteria” search. This finds sixty-plus examples, including AMY’S ICE CREAMS overcoming a variety of AMY’s marks, GRILL FRESH vs FRESH GRILL, TOPPERS vs VEGGIE TOPPERS, WAFFLEJACK vs HUNGRY JACK, BUFFBURGER vs BUFFBURGER, and more.

If you still needed more examples, you could remove the “Active” constraint — this will pull in more good examples, but also more instances where the cited mark was “overcome” only because the prior application went abandoned or the prior registration was cancelled or expired.

Find Evidence to Support the Argument

There are a few ways we might want to push back: providing some evidence that pasta and restaurant services aren’t closely related, and providing evidence that TONY is pretty diluted even as to restaurant services, and thus isn’t likely to cause confusion with food products.

A. Using ThorCheck® to Find Goods/Services Relationship Evidence

We’ll use ThorCheck to find evidence of identical or very similar marks, used for pasta or lasagna on the one hand and for restaurant services on the other. The evidence goes both ways. There are lots of examples of the same mark being registered for both, but there are also dozens examples of this sort of co-existence; even focusing on personal names, we have examples like GIULIA and RAO’S and BUDDY’s and BLAKE’S and AMY’S and lots of examples like PASTA MAMA’S vs MAMA’S PIZZA and ANTONIO’s vs
ANTONIO’S PIZZA. ThorCheck makes it simple to find these examples. It’s a matter of a single click to export a Word chart to add to your Office Action Response and one more to pull TSDR status and title copies into an evidence stack to attach to your response.

B. Find Evidence of the Dilution of TONY in the Restaurant Field

This sort of evidence is commonplace in the successful responses we just searched for moments ago. A manual search (or even a knockout search) is the way to go. Run the search, flag the fifty-three coexisting TONY registrations for some sort of restaurant-ish services in Class 43, export the chart to Word to integrate into your draft Office Action Response, and then hit the TSDR export button to get your evidence stack ready to go in one click.

How’s the Trademark Office Doing?

The case law requires that “something more” that a mere possibility of overlap in order to find a likelihood of confusion, e.g. that both the food product and the restaurant are similar types of food. See, e.g., In re Azteca Rest. Enters., Inc., 50 USPQ2d 1209 (TTAB 1999) (finding likely confusion between AZTECA MEXICAN RESTAURANT for restaurant services, and actually used for a Mexican restaurant, and AZTECA (with and without design) for Mexican food items).

How’s the trademark office doing in applying these standards? The “something more” language only makes it into about 1/5 of the outgoing Office Actions that have issued citations on similar facts. Where an Office Action is issued, the rate of overcoming it is far lower when the Examiner does use the “something more” language — from around 42% of applicants that get through to publication or registration for the refusals overall to just 26% that overcome the “something more” refusals. The Office is also, as ThorCheck finds, generating pretty inconsistent outcomes — sometimes an application will get refused, sometimes it will skate through and end up co-existing. The inconsistency is frustrating for applicants and their counsel, and rightfully so. I’m not sure what the solution would be, though; a per-se rule would make registration even more difficult.