The Federal Circuit continued what some may consider a stubborn refusal to acknowledge how modern-day business is done over the Internet by holding the mark HOTELS.COM generic and refusing to allow it to be registered as a trademark.
In In re Hotels.com, L.P., No 2008-1429 (Fed. Cir. July 23, 2009), the applicant argued, to no avail, that it was not a hotel, but instead provided travel related information and travel agency services. The Federal Circuit thought that since a large part of those services involved hotels, the services were close enough to the name to be generic. The Federal Circuit also stuck by the PTO’s consistent policy that adding “.com” to a generic name doesn’t make the generic name into a trademark. For evidentiary reasons, the Federal Circuit also discounted several consumer affidavits and a survey for evidentiary showing that 76% of respondents thought HOTELS.COM was a brand.
Some (maybe a lot) may argue that this decision ignores that Internet-savvy consumers may increasingly view designations in the form “product category.com” as brand names for services facilitating commerce in that product category. But the question may not be ripe for reconsideration by the en banc court until presented in a case avoiding the evidentiary shortcomings identified in this one.