Pooria Shahin applied to register the mark BEENDER (in standard character form) for "computer application software for mobile phones, namely, software for social introduction and dating," but Match Group, LLC opposed, claiming a likelihood of confusion with, and likely dilution of, its registered mark TINDER (standard form) for overlapping goods. The Board found the TINDER mark to be "very strong" for likelihood of confusion purposes, but not famous for purposes of dilution. But what about the marks? How do you think this came out? [See results of Twitter poll, below] Match Group, LLC v. Pooria Shahin, Opposition No. 91241077 (February 11, 2021) [not precedential] (Opinion by Judge Marc A. Bergsman).

1037922a.jpg

Strength of the TINDER mark: Revenue and usage data, and especially the unsolicited references to TINDER in news articles posted on the Internet, led the Board to find that "TINDER falls on the very strong side of the spectrum of very strong to very weak and, thus, TINDER is entitled to a broad scope of protection."

The Goods: The TINDER registration covered "downloadable software in the nature of a mobile application for internet-based dating and matchmaking," but applicant Shahin (appearing pro se) argued that the involved goods are different:

beender was created because of inadequacy and sketchiness of online dating apps, where you are introduced to strangers. As the opposing party describes in its written argument, TINDER® tries "to decrease creepiness of communicating with strangers", whereas beender is an app designed to facilitate approaching people you meet in person, and not strangers.

The Board, however, pointed out once again that it must "look to the description of goods in the application and registration, not to extrinsic evidence about the scope of the goods" and, in any case, "Applicant's argument does not present any meaningful distinction between his software and Opposer's software: that is, both products seek to make meeting people easier or less difficult."

The Marks: The Board noted that when the involved goods are (in part) identical, a lesser degree of similarity between the marks is required to support a findig of likelihood of confusion. (FWIW, Applicant's drawing depicted the mark in lower case letters (beender), but he did not claim any special form for the mark.)

A mark displayed in standard form is not limited to any particular depiction of the mark. For example, Applicant Shahin displays his mark as follows:  

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Opposer, whose registered mark is depicted in standard character form, may display its mark thusly:

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[Does this point make any sense? - ed.].

"Under these circumstances, including the renown of Opposer's mark and the identity of the services, the marks are similar, albeit not identical in appearance."

The Board also found that "beender" could be pronounced as "bender," since the word "been" is pronounced as "ben." [That pronunciation never crossed my mind. I think applicant's mark would be pronounced "bean-der." - ed.] . Despite no apparent supporting evidence, the Board concluded:

[O]n this record, it strains credulity to reject finding that a significant segment of consumers will pronounce Applicant's mark as rhyming with Opposer's mark and instead find that consumers will use some alternative pronunciation (although some might).


The Board bent over even further toward opposer when it considered the meanings of the marks. Applicant Shahin maintained that "beender" is a term he coined, derived from the phrase "been there, done that." The Board, however, noted that some dictionaries define "bender" as a slang term meaning "a drinking spree," and the Urban Dictionary, one website, and one blog post refer to a "tinder bender" as a "string of dates." According to the Board, some users "may believe that beender is a shortened form of 'Tinder Bender." [Where's the proof? - ed.]

Opposer's contention that "no evidence in the record suggests BEENDER has a commercial meaning different from Opposer's TINDER® mark" and "consumers are more apt to believe [beender] is an extension or variation of, or otherwise related to, [Opposer's] famous TINDER® app" is not frivolous. [Doesn't opposer have the burden of proof? - ed.]

The Board therefore sustained the Section 2(d) claim.

Dilution: Opposer's evidence of fame for dilution purposes fell short because it failed to show that the mark is famous to the general public, as opposed to users of mobile dating apps (i.e., niche fame). And so opposer's dilution claim was dismissed.

The TTABlog

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AUTHOR(S)
John L. Welch
Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, P.C.
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