The Board upheld yet another failure-to-function refusal, this time affirming the USPTO's refusal to register I LOVE YOU SO MUCH, in the stylized form shown below, for "Charitable fundraising services by means of organizing and conducting special events." Based on the evidence of record, the Board concluded that "use of I LOVE YOU SO MUCH is so widespread that it is incapable of functioning as a service mark." In re Bunkhouse Management, LLC, Serial No. 87539883 (January 29, 2021) [not precedential] (Opinion by Judge Albert Zervas].
Examining Attorney Robert N. Guliano submitted numerous third-party website pages that include the phrase "I love you so much" used in messages concerning charitable donations, as well examples of use of the phrase in song titles, book titles, clothing, and messages of various sorts. Applicant Bunkhouse Management provided seven form declarations asserting that the declarant recognizes the phrase as "an indicator of the source of coffee, food, café services and other goods or services." Bunkhouse also pointed to third-party registrations for I LOVE YOU and formative marks, and various other items of evidence regarding street art and informational slogans.
The Board observed that this case hinges on whether "potential purchasers of Applicant's services, would perceive the term as identifying Applicant's services and their source or origin."
Although Bunkhouse displays the phrase on its website and uses the TM symbol adjacent the proposed mark, that alone does not suffice to make it an indicator of source. "[T]he evidence reveals that I LOVE YOU SO MUCH. does not perform the desired service mark function and does not fall within the Act's definition of a service mark because it would be perceived not as a mark, but as a widely-used expression of a sentiment."
The Board found Bunkouse's evidence to be unpersuasive. "The declarations Applicant submitted are only seven in number, and there is no explanation of how Applicant obtained the declarations." Such form declarations "may not "actually reflect the views of the declarants" and are entitled to "little weight." Moreover all of the declarants reside in Dallas, Texas, and their relationship to Applicant are unknown: e.g., consumers, suppliers or contractors. And the declarations fail to refer to charitable fundraising services.
The third-party registrations for I LOVE YOU and formative marks were not probative because there was no evidence regarding the extent or manner of use of the marks. In any case, each application must be considered on its own merits. Finally, the Board observed that the stylization of the proposed mark is common and ordinary and does not create a commercial impression different from the words alone.
Concluding that the phrase fails to function as a service mark under Sections 1, 2, 3, and 45 of the Trademark Act, the Board affirmed the refusal to register.
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TTABlogger comment: I think saying that the mark is "incapable of functioning" as a mark is better than saying it "fails to function." The latter phrase suggests that there is something the applicant could do, like submit a better specimen of use, to salvage the proposed mark. The former phrase makes it clear that the proposed mark is not salvageable due to the ubiquity of the subject phrase.
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