Professional wrestler Ric Flair lost this bout at the TTAB, the Board affirming a Section 2(d) refusal to register the mark NATURE BOY for various items of clothing, in view of the registered mark NATURE BOYS for overlapping clothing items [BOYS disclaimed]. Flair claimed that because of his fame as “the greatest professional wrestler of all time,” and his nickname “Nature Boy,” consumers will perceive the association between him and the mark NATURE BOY, thus changing the commercial impression of the mark. The Board shook off that argument and tossed the appeal out of the TTAB ring. In re Ric Flair, LLC, Application Serial No. 87884420 (April 6, 2020) [not precedential] (Opinion by Judge Marc A. Bergsman).

Flair contended that his mark referred solely to himself, while registrant uses the mark NATURE BOYS to refer to its customers, who enjoy fishing and seek gear to wear while fishing. The Board, however, observed that the goods identified in the cited registration are not all limited to fishing, but include shirts, t-shirts, and tank tops, as does the subject application. Similarly, applicant’s goods are not limited to clothing items that refer to any individual, and therefore the Board saw no basis for distinguishing the meaning or commercial impression of the marks at issue.

Flair also contended that “the renown that NATURE BOY has achieved as  professional wrestler Ric Flair’s nickname engenders a different commercial impression than the mark NATURE BOYS in the cited registration.” The Board side-stepped that contention:

Again, the problem with this argument is that it requires us to go beyond the mark in the drawing page and description of goods in the application and to use extrinsic evidence to distinguish the marks. Notwithstanding Applicant’s argument and evidence regarding the actual scope of its own and the cited Registrant’s use of its mark, we may not limit, by resort to extrinsic evidence, the scope of goods as identified in the cited registration or in the subject application to change the commercial impression of the marks.

The Board noted that, if the description of goods in Flair’s application were limited to wresting t-shirts and wrestling tank tops, there “might be an argumen” that the mark has a specific connotation referring to Flair. “Here, the record does not show that NATURE BOY when used in connection with the clothing identified in the application has any meaning associated with Ric Flair, aka The Nature Boy.”

The Board therefore affirmed the refusal to register.

Read comments and post your comment here.

TTABlog comment: Suppose Flair’s goods were limited to wrestling clothing. The cited registration covers all types of t-shirts and tank tops, including wrestling t-shirts and tank tops. Is reverse confusion likely? Will wrestling-savvy consumers think registrant’s goods emanate from Ric Flair?

Ringo Starr met with a similar fate in his attempt to register RINGO for various clothing items “all depicting the name and image of a famous entertainer.” There the Board pointed out the possiblility of reverse confusion (or, as I called it, “noisufnoc”). TTABlogged here.

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2020.