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When Pageants Attack

It has been an exciting year for trademark cases involving pageants.

Yesterday, the Mrs. Colorado America pageant prevailed over the Mrs. Colorado United States pageant in the District of Colorado.

U.S. District Judge Marcia S. Krieger ruled Mrs. Colorado United States cannot use the title “Mrs. Colorado” alone without “United States” on the end while in Colorado because it infringes on the trademark held by the operators of Mrs. Colorado America.

Mrs. Colorado United States must also change her sash so that it clearly contains her entire title.

Krieger ruled that in national pageants – such as Mrs. America and Mrs. United States – the infringement of “Mrs. Colorado” does not occur because the public is able to discern which pageant the contestant is competing in. (source)

The order was given orally, so the PACER documents don’t reveal much of the reasoning. However, it seems that the court feels that “Mrs. Colorado America” and “Mrs. Colorado United States” are not confusingly similar as long as the “America” and “United States” elements are displayed.

This doesn’t seem to gel with Miss Universe v. Community Marketing, Inc., Opposition No. 91160627 (TTAB 2007). In that case, the TTAB ruled that “Miss Universe” and “Mr. Gay Universe” were confusingly similar. (TTABlog discussion of the case here).

“[T]he issue is not whether the two pageants will be confused for one another or whether the relevant public will be able to distinguish between the pageants themselves. Rather, the issue is whether the relevant public will assume, due to the similarity of the marks, that there is a source, sponsorship or other connection between the two pageants.”

Now this is great logic. I strongly agree with it. But, when it comes to making a decision regarding the “relevant marketplace”, the USPTO doesn’t seem to care if its “evidence” is tea leaves or mere conjecture.

It seems that in the USPTO’s opinion, the relevant public is essentially brain dead – which isn’t such an unfair opinion, but not something that I like to see as a presumption. I just with they had the courage to come out and say it. “The public that cares to watch these examples of cultural dreck is so brain dead that they are lucky if they can tell their ass from their elbow with two hands, a picture book, and a flashlight. Therefore, in order to make sure that the complete losers in the evolutionary lottery are not misled, we are going to rule this way.”

Now THAT would be refreshing to read.

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