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July 15, 2012 Vol. 67 No. 13 Back to Bulletin Main Page

UNITED STATES: Applicant Goes to the Mattress But TTAB Affirms Descriptiveness Refusal of THE BIG RIG MATTRESS

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) affirmed the examining attorney’s refusal of the mark THE BIG RIG MATTRESS for “mattresses.” In re Quality Spring Products, Inc., Serial No. 77738221 (T.T.A.B. May 23, 2012) (non-precedential).

The examining attorney refused registration of the mark on the basis that it was primarily merely descriptive of the goods. A mark is deemed primarily merely descriptive if it conveys an immediate idea of an ingredient, quality, characteristic, feature, function, purpose or use of the goods on which it is used. A mark may be deemed descriptive even if it only conveys one significant attribute, function or property of the goods.

Applicant Quality Springs Products, Inc. conceded that one interpretation of the words THE BIG RIG MATTRESS was “truck mattress,” which was descriptive of the goods because a portion of Quality Springs’s product line was “adapted to be utilized with tractor trailer trucks.” Given this admission, the TTAB did not discuss in detail the evidence submitted by the examining attorney (a dictionary definition of “big rig” evidencing that the term is defined as a “tractor-trailer truck” and a page from Quality Springs’s website advertising the products as a “Truck Sleeper mattress.”).

Quality Springs contended that its mark was still registrable because it was a double entendre with a non-descriptive second meaning. It argued that the word “rig” could be viewed as “gear” for a particular purpose, and, as a result, the mark could be viewed as “big gear/apparatus” in addition to “truck.” In other words, the second meaning of the mark connoted a “heavy duty mattress or heavy duty sleeping gear.” Quality Springs further argued that “big rig is the stronger, more powerful, more heavy duty piece of equipment or gear in comparison to the normal, ordinary, or small rig” and that its mark could be viewed as “The Heavy Duty or High Quality Equipment or Gear Mattress.”

As a mark is analyzed not in the abstract but in relation to the goods for which registration is sought, the context in which it is being used and the possible significance that the term would have to the average purchaser of the goods, the fact that a mark may have other meanings in different contexts is not controlling. In order to qualify as a double entendre, the TTAB noted, the second, non-descriptive meaning of the mark had to be immediately apparent to the consumer. The TTAB determined that Quality Springs’ argument was “very strained” and that consumers would not “go through this very convoluted reasoning when the meaning of BIG RIG as a tractor-trailer [would] be very evident to them.” Consumers would instead view the mark as identifying a “mattress designed for big rigs.”

The TTAB was not persuaded that the mark THE BIG RIG MATTRESS was a double entendre having a non-descriptive meaning. It found that the mark was merely descriptive of the goods and affirmed the examining attorney’s refusal of registration.

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of items in the INTA Bulletin, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.

© 2012 International Trademark Association