Comparing Apples to Apples: TTAB on In re Horizon Group USA, Inc.

Introduction

On September 1, 2020, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) made a decision in In re Horizon Group USA, Inc. Horizon Group USA, Inc.  (“Applicant”) seeks registration on the Principal Register for the word mark SUGAR BOMBS for “Bath bombs” in International Class 3. Registration was refused under Section 2(d) on the grounds of Likelihood of Confusion with registered mark SUGARBOMB for “cosmetics” in International Class 3. Applicant appealed and requested reconsideration from the Trademark Examining Attorney, who maintained the refusal. The appeal resumed, and TTAB had jurisdiction.

Decision

Applicant attempted to submit evidentiary support of its stance, but due to timeliness and improper formatting, the Examining Attorney objected Applicant’s submission, which was sustained by TTAB.

Further, TTAB made a determination on likelihood of confusion with the consideration of “each DuPont factor for which there is evidence and argument” (4). It should be noted that, “When analyzing these factors, the overriding concerns are not only to prevent buyer confusion as to the source of the goods, but also to protect the registrant from adverse commercial impact due to use of a similar mark by a newcomer” (4).

Regarding similarity of the marks, appearance, sound, connotation, and commercial impression are considered, any of which single similarity may be enough to find marks confusingly similar. As Applicant’s desired SUGAR BOMBS mark is merely a compounded and pluralized version of Registrant’s SUGARBOMB mark, the marks are considered identical. Minute details—such as the spacing and pluralization—are unimportant, since the marks’ overall impressions are very similar, and thus, likely to cause confusion.

Regarding the goods, the Trademark Examining Attorney posed that Applicant’s goods (“Bath bombs”) and Registrant’s goods (“cosmetics”) are related, since these goods may emanate from the same single source, which TTAB sustains. Therefore, even though the goods are not interchangeable, they are considered related as it would not be uncommon to find both goods manufactured by the same entity.

In addition, regarding Conditions of Purchase, because bath bombs and cosmetics are “relatively low-priced and subject to impulse buying, the risk of likelihood of confusion is increased because purchasers of such products are held to a lesser standard of purchasing care” (16).

And finally, Applicant also attempted to argue that there are other “similar” pairings found on the Principal Register, such as: BEAUTY TREAT and TREATS; DIVA and LA DIVA; RAINBOW and NAKED RAINBOW; and MAGNETIC and MAGNETIC PERSONALITY. However, simply based on the faces of these registrations, TTAB concluded that the USPTO allowed such registrations due to the marks’ dissimilarities, which contrast with the similarities between the identical marks in this appeal.

For the above reasons, TTAB affirms the Section 2(d) refusal of Applicant’s SUGAR BOMBS mark.

Conclusion

It is important to carefully consider one’s mark prior to filing an application for registration, and it is just as important to consider one’s goods when adopting a mark. Minute details in a mark are likely not enough to obtain a registration. Furthermore, if one is aware of a party with a similar mark, but seemingly different goods, one should still proceed with caution. Although the competitor’s goods might appear to be different from the potential applicant’s, they may still be considered related, especially if it’s possible for both sets of goods to be purchased from one source. If possible, doing one’s due diligence prior to obtaining registration could be beneficial, as it would provide the potential applicant with insight on any potentially similar marks, with any potentially related goods.

 

Full In re Horizon Group USA, Inc. decision can be read here: https://ttabvue.uspto.gov/ttabvue/ttabvue-87901706-EXA-19.pdf.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed throughout this blog are the views and opinions of the individual author(s) and/or contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of our firm, CIONCA IP Law. P.C.

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