The Board affirmed a refusal to register the phrase RIBBONS OF HOPE as a trademark for pasta, finding that the phrase fails to function as a mark. Examining Attorney Anthony Rinker maintained that RIBBONS OF HOPE mark is “an informational social, political, religious, or similar kind of message that merely conveys support of, admiration for, or affiliation with the ideals conveyed by the message.” The Board agreed. In re Riviana Foods Inc., Serial No. 87414879 (July 20, 2020) [not precedential] (Opinion by Judge Jonathan Hudis).

The Board observed once again that “[i]n determining whether a designation functions as a mark, the critical inquiry is how the relevant public would perceive the designation.” In order to make that determination, the Board looks to the applicant’s specimen(s) of use and other evidence showing how the proposed mark is actually used.

Applicant’s product displays state “for every sale of San Giorgio Ribbons for Hope pasta during September 2017, 50¢ will be donated to the Children’s Cancer Foundation to support pediatric cancer research” and “September is Cancer Awareness Month.” The Examining Attorney submitted a number of examples of third-party use of the phrase RIBBON(S) OF HOPE in their names, as part of cancer awareness, women’s awareness, or fund raising campaigns: for example, DANCE FOR THE CURE – RIBBONS OF HOPE, CARBON COUNTY RIBBONS OF HOPE, and RIBBONS OF HOPE – INVEST IN WOMEN, INC.

The Board concluded that RIBBONS OF HOPE, as used by applicant, fails to function as a trademark:

Rather, consumers would perceive Applicant’s SAN GIORGIO & Design mark as the designation of source shown in Applicant’s specimens. Applicant’s proposed mark, as shown in the specimens, informs consumers of Applicant’s pasta that their product purchase supports cancer awareness and research efforts. Moreover, Applicant’s use of RIBBONS OF HOPE is very much like the third party uses of RIBBON(S) OF HOPE in non-profit organization names, as part of cancer awareness or women’s awareness, or as part of fund raising campaigns. The uses demonstrate that consumers are familiar with the phrase to signify support of these causes, and would not recognize RIBBONS OF HOPE as a source-indicator.

And so the Board affirmed the refusal to register

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Text Copyright John L. Welch 2020.