TTAB Rules that Washington D.C. Can’t Claim “Mumbo Sauce” Trademark

By Joseph Mandour on September 11, 2013

California Trademark LawLos Angeles – As Washington D.C. foodies are well aware, “Mumbo sauce,” is a deliciously versatile condiment that has been slathered on everything from french fries to chicken wings to Chinese food for years in the City.   However, after a recent ruling by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB), D.C. based sauce enthusiasts were dealt a major blow as a Chicago company was found to have legal ownership of the trademark.

It all began when Capital City Mumbo Sauce filed a petition to cancel the registered trademark for “Mumbo Sauce” held by Select Brands LLC, a Chicago company.  Capital City Mumbo Sauce, which operates a website that calls its sauce the “Flavor of DC” and sells t-shirts along with its signature sauces, claims that its formula for the sauce is different from Select Brands’.   Further, it its petition to cancel, it argued that Select Brands’s sauce  is used more as a marinade than dipping sauce and that the two products are therefore different.

The TTAB refused to buy Capital City Mumbo Sauce’s argument, however, and found that Select Brands had validly maintained use of its trademark, which it first obtained in 1958.   Select Brands pointed to its use in restaurants and its production of a bottled sauce sold in Chicago area stores in its effort to defeat the petition to cancel.   In finding for Select Brands, the TTAB also rejected Capital City Mumbo Sauce’s claim that the term “Mumbo sauce” has become so widely used in the D.C. area that it has become generic.

Since the ruling, the owners of Capital City Mumbo Sauce have vowed to fight the TTAB’s ruling and have already filed an appeal.   While the fight continues, it is clear that Washingtonians’ love for Mumbo sauce lives on, with hip hop artists recording recent songs about it, countless Yelp reviews featuring it, and  upscale restaurants adding it to their menus.

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