Rentalcars.com

gtld

This ruling considers whether a generic top level domain g.TLD can be registered as a trademark.

Traveljigsaw LTD filed Israel Trademark Application TM 241856 for the word mark rentalcars.com for:

Transport services; travel services; car hire services; arranging holiday transport; vehicle rental and leasing services; rental and leasing of passenger vehicles, commercial and industrial vehicles; rental and leasing of cars, bicycles, motorcycles, camping cars, trucks, lorries, vans, coaches, buses, caravans; rental and leasing of vehicle equipment and apparatus; rental and leasing of vehicle accessories, including, luggage carriers, car seats, child safety seats, vehicle trailers, luggage racks, bike racks; arranging for transportation of persons; travel arrangement services; travel reservation services; electronic information services, namely, interactive and on-line information services featuring vehicle leasing and rental and travel information and interactive and on-line reservation services for vehicle leasing and rental; booking and ticket services; arranging and/or booking of holidays, travel, tours, cruises and vehicle hire, including arranging and/or booking of holidays, travel, tours, cruises and vehicle hire via the Internet; arranging and/or booking of seats for travel, including arranging and/or booking of seats for travel via the Internet; travel agency services, including travel agency services via the Internet; including, but not limited to, all the aforesaid provided by electronic means including the Internet; consultancy, advisory and information services relating to all the aforesaid services, all included in class 39.

The mark was applied for on 26 October 2011 and the Trademark Examiner at the Israel Patent Office refused the mark under Section 8a of the trademark Ordinance 1972 as the mark was descriptive of the goods to be protected.

The Applicant disagreed, arguing that the mark was not descriptive and the link between the mark and the services was tenuous. The mark relates to a website and not to car services. The site doesn’t even offer car hire services but merely is a platform for such services. The addition of the .com makes the mark distinctive and not merely descriptive.

The Applicant further argued that various countries such as Italy, Greece and Romania had allowed the mark to be registered. The company was internationally recognized. The applicant did not, however, want the mark based on a foreign registration.

The applicant supported their argument with an affidavit which was not found persuasive. They therefore filed a second affidavit, and, following a final rejection appealed this decision to the Commissioner to rule based on the contents of the file, but requested that the contents of the second affidavit be kept confidential as it allegedly included trade-secrets.

Ruling

Trade Secrets

Section 23 of the Fair Trade Laws 1999 allows the court to keep certain submissions secret, See 2375/13 Rami Levy vs. Moshe Dahan, 8 July 2013, where relevant considerations such as relevance of information to the proceedings, damage likely to be caused by its publication and the advantage to third parties.

In this instance, the confidentiality request relates to expenses in marketing and publicising the website, number of customers in each country during the period of 2004 to 2012, number of web visits from each country, invoices to Google and other suppliers.

Section 5 of the Fair Trade Laws states that:

A trade secret is business information of any type that is not public knowledge and is not easily obtainable, that provides a commercial advantage over competitors, so long as that the owners take reasonable precautions to keep the information confidential.

The information in question may be considered as trade secrets. In adversarial proceedings, the information is usually necessary to follow the adjudicator’s reasoning. In this instance, however, the proceeding is one of examination between the applicant and the Israel Patent Office and the amount of information that needs to be published is simply the minimum required to make the decision comprehensible.

In this instance, the decision does not require the second Affidavit by Peter Ronney from 2 May 2014 to enable interested parties to follow the decision, and so this information may stay restricted.

Inherent Distinctiveness

The purpose of section 8a is so that articles labeled with the desired mark (in this case rentalcars.com) can know the source of origin of goods or services (Seligsohn page 20).

In general, marks may be generic, descriptive, indicative, random and imaginary, although sometimes the boundaries between these categories are blurred. There is a theoretical continuum between generic and created marks, and the more unique and random the mark, or the more a mark has acquired distinctiveness, the wider protection, and generic marks are not protectable at all. Words that are descriptive of the goods or services must remain in the public domain. “Rentalcars.com” is, accrding to Deputy Commissioner, Ms Jacqueline Bracha, wholly generic and descriptive of the services provided, and the dotcom suffix is insufficient to make the mark unique and distinctive.

The .com suffix merely indicates a generic top level domain gTLD, see Kerley’s Law of Trademarks and Trade Names 15th Ed. (201) P. 859. The issue has been widely discussed in previous ruling 234287 “Hotels.co.il” from September 2013.

Quoting Kerley, the dotcom suffix merely indicates an international profile and therefore does not provide distinctiveness.

The summations noted that the company provides car rental services in Israel and abroad. Consequently, the argument that the company does not ONLY provide care rental services was not given much weight as this was the major activity and other services were related.

The fact that a name is registerable as a domain name does not imply that it is registerable as a trademark as the guidelines and requirements for registering domains in Israel  are very different from the trademark regulations, so the fact that a domain was registered does not free the patent and trademark office from independently examining whether marks are distinctive enough to serve as trademarks.

The commissioner noted that there is no connection between Traveljigsaw – the name of the service provider, and the services provided. Citing the TTAB – the Trademark Tribunal in the USPTO in its ruling concerning 1800.tickets and tickets.com it was ruled that such marks may not be registered even if the term ticket is dropped from the list of goods.

“The test for determining whether a mark is merely descriptive is whether the involved term immediately conveys information concerning a significant quality, characteristic, function, ingredient, attribute or feature of the product or service in connection with which it is used, or intended to be used. In re Engineering Systems Corp., 2 USPQ2d 1075 (TTAB 1986); In re Bright-Crest, Ltd., 204 USPQ 591 (TTAB 1979). It is not necessary, in order to find a mark merely descriptive, that the mark describe each feature of the goods or services, only that it describe a single significant quality, feature, etc. of the goods or services. In re Venture Lending Associates, 226 USPQ 285 (TTAB 1985). Further, it is well-established [*5]  that the determination of mere descriptiveness must be made not in the abstract or on the basis of guesswork, but in relation to the goods or services for which registration is sought, the context in which the mark is used, and the impact that it is likely to make on the average purchaser of such goods or services. In re Recovery, 196 USPQ 830 (TTAB 1977).

In turning first to the alpha or letter portion of this alleged mark (the word “tickets”), we find from this record that the evidence is overwhelming that the word “tickets” is merely descriptive of applicant’s services, even after all the earlier “ticket” and “ticketing” language has been scrubbed from the recitation of services.

Similarly in In re Dial A Mattress Operating Corp., 1999 TTAB LEXIS 623, 9-10 (TTAB 1999)  concerning the mark 188-mattress:

“We are persuaded that the analysis and rationale set forth in Dranoff-Perlstein and 800 Spirits, supra, would serve as an appropriate complement to the Federal Circuit’s Ginn two-part test in cases requiring a determination of the genericness of alphanumeric telephone number marks. Accordingly, we hold that if the mark sought to be registered is comprised solely of the combination of a designation (such as a toll-free telephone area code) which is devoid of source-indicating significance, joined with matter which, under the Ginn two-part test, is generic for the identified goods or services, then the mark as a whole is generic and unregistrable. Stated differently, a generic term is not transformed into a registrable mark simply by joining it with a toll-free telephone area code which itself is devoid of source-indicating significance.

TMEP section 1209.01(b)(12). Furthermore, it appears that a similar analysis has been adopted by the Office for examination of the ever-increasing number of marks which consist of or incorporate those portions of Internet domain names which are devoid of any source-indicating significance, such as “http,” “www” and “.com”. See Examination Guide No. 2-99, issued September 29, 1999, entitled “Marks Composed, in Whole or in Part, of Domain Names.”

Acquired Distinctiveness

Since the mark is generic it cannot have acquired distinctiveness. Nevertheless, the ruling went on to examine the alleged acquired distinctiveness and, citing Kerley, noted that A domain name registration as such is not an intellectual property right: it is a contract with the registration authority.”

In conclusion, the mark was refused.

Re TM 241856 to Traveljigsaw LTD for “RENTALCARS.COM”, ruling by Ms Jacqueline Bracha, 30 June 2015.

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