Different Trade Channels Preclude Confusion of BENTLEY marks, Says TTAB
The Board reversed a refusal to register the mark BENTLEY for perfume, cosmetics, and glassware "sold only in authorized vehicle dealers and authorized vehicle service outlets," finding the mark not likely to cause confusion with the marks BENTLEY, BENTLEY UNIVERSITY, and BENTLEY ORGANIC for similar or identical goods. Applicant Bentley Motors successfully argued that, because its goods are sold only through the "very tightly-knit" Bentley circle of dealers and service outlets, to an "niche, affluent clientele," confusion is unlikely. The Board agreed, apparently having never heard of reverse confusion. In re Bentley Motors Ltd., Serial No. 85325994 (December 3, 2013) [not precedential].
The Examining Attorney argued that, since the cited registrations are unrestricted as to channels of trade, the goods are presumed to travel in all normal channels of trade. The Board observed, however, that there was no evidence that the ordinary channels of trade for registrants' goods include Bentley's authorized dealers and service outlets.
Put another way, applicant’s goods are marketed solely and exclusively through dealers and service outlets for Bentley and Rolls Royce automobiles. The record does not support the proposition that the goods identified in the cited registrations normally move in these channels of trade, notwithstanding that they do not recite any trade channel limitations. The burden is on the Office to show that the ordinary trade channels for registrants’ goods overlap with applicant’s very limited trade channel.
The Board found this factor to be dispositive, and it therefore reversed the refusal.
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TTABlog note: Hold on just a second. What about reverse confusion? What about customers seeing BENTLEY brand products in the normal channels of trade, and thinking they are sold by applicant? Where's the evidence that the general consuming public is aware that Bentley's goods are sold only by authorized dealers?
For a different take on this issue, see the ORION case, TTABlogged here, wherein L.L. Bean's application to register that mark ORION for golf clubs and fishing rods was rejected, despite Bean's argument that the trade channels "cannot overlap" because its goods are sold only by itself, and because the customers for these goods are sophisticated and discriminating.
Text Copyright John L. Welch 2013.