Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Federal Circuit ruling on website-based trademark specimens

In a mundane but useful decision, the Federal Circuit recently overturned the PTO’s “bright-line rule that a trademark specimen of use taken from a website must contain a picture.”

In In re Sones, No. 2009-1140 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 23, 2009), the specimen consisted of two webpage print-outs. One was a page from a website advertising a “charity bracelet” under the asserted mark "ONE NATION UNDER GOD™." There was no picture of the bracelet on the webpage, only a placeholder icon stating “Photo not available.” This webpage appeared to allow the user to click on an “Add to Cart” icon, indicating that the item could be ordered right off the website. The applicant also provided a sample webpage order form with the bracelet in the "cart."

The test that the Federal Circuit articulated in lieu of the website-picture requirement is that the website specimen “must in some way evince that the mark is ‘associated’ with the goods and serves as an indicator of source.” The court noted that while a picture is “an important consideration,” all relevant factors should be assessed, including whether the webpage specimen has a “point of sale nature,” whether the actual or inherent features of the product are recognizable from the textual description, and the use of the “™” symbol.

While the Court rejected the PTO’s “website-picture” requirement, the Court did not approve the specimen at issue, but instead remanded for a determination whether the specimen met the newly-articulated test.


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