PTO Shuts Down Science Center’s Trademark Appeal

By Joseph Mandour on September 19, 2012

registered R-thumb-200x200-48952 Orange County — The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board denied Columbus, Ohio’s Center of Science and Industry’s attempt to trademark its name earlier in September, ruling that the trademark was merely descriptive and not distinctive enough.

The Franklin County Historical Society sought registration of the trademark “Center of Science and Industry” in standard character format to cover education and entertainment services, namely, operating a museum and conducting workshops, programs and demonstrations in the field of science.

The trademark examining attorney refused registration of the trademark on the grounds that the trademark is merely descriptive of the identified services and has not acquired distinctiveness. The historical society argued against the first refusal, and sought registration with a claim of acquired distinctiveness in the alternative.

The examining attorney submitted dictionary definitions of the separate words “center,” “science” and “industry,” which the TTAB found to be probative of the relevant public’s understanding of the term “Center of Science and Industry” as applied to the historical society’s recited services.

“It would not take any complicated reasoning or cogitation for consumers considering the proposed mark in conjunction with the recital of services to conclude that the proposed mark conveys information about a center where one can learn about science and industry,” the board said.

The examining attorney also submitted evidence of third parties that use variations on the center’s name for museum services.

The dictionary evidence shows the proposed trademark to be a descriptive one, and the use by third parties on their websites further shows that there is a competitive need for the terms “center,” “science,” and “industry” in connection with the services the historical society sought to register the trademark for, according to the TTAB.

The historical society argued that in addition to over 35 years of “substantially exclusive” use, its Center of Science and Industry has garnered attention by receiving, over the years, 20 million visitors from all 50 states. It features regular and special exhibits with “rare artifacts,” and has been awarded national awards and recognition, including the Parents Magazine award of “#1 Science Center” in the country, according to the historical society.

If any term concerning the center has gained a degree of renown, though, it is the acronym COSI, according to the examining attorney. He pointed out that none of the examples the historical society provided show the trademark phrase appearing unaccompanied by the acronym.

“Although applicant’s museum services may attract many visitors and indeed it may have national recognition with multiple awards, it has not established acquired distinctiveness specific to the term “‘Center of Science and Industry,'” the TTAB ruled.

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