It’s Thanksgiving week, and like many of you, I’m scrambling to wrap up work in time to spend the holiday with family and friends, enjoying a healthy dose of tryptophan.  Fearful of skimping on the holiday-related blogging, I’ll give you a second helping (and stop with the wordplay while I’m ahead) of a post I wrote last year on Turkey Trots and trademark law:

(Originally posted November 24, 2010)

For some people, tomorrow’s Thanksgiving holiday means not only time spent with loved ones over a turkey dinner– it means waking up at the crack of dawn and running.

Pittsburgh Trademark Lawyer is not one of those people.  Admittedly, I am a runner, and a somewhat avid one, at that.   In fact, I just ran my first marathon in my second-favorite city in Pennsylvania this past weekend.  But, on Thanksgiving, I eat.

In any case, people all across the country will lace up their running shoes tomorrow and participate in what, in many instances is called a “Turkey Trot.”   These races often raise money for charity, and participants no doubt enjoy the benefit of burning some extra calories on Turkey Day.  But it probably goes without saying that I’m more interested in the trademark law issues surrounding the phrase “Turkey Trot.”

Evidently, the tradition of hosting public footraces on Thanksgiving Day dates back farther than I would have guessed, with the first Turkey Trot taking place in Buffalo, New York in 1896.

The Usual Suspects

And while some Thanksgiving Day races bear monikers such as “Stuffing Strut” there are “Turkey Trots” taking place all across the country, which begs the question: does someone collect a licensing fee for all these uses of “Turkey Trot,” or is the phrase more or less descriptive of a Thanksgiving Day race?

The USPTO weighted in on this in an Application for (you guessed it) the proposed mark “TURKEY TROT.”

The applicant applied to register the mark TURKEY TROT in connection with organizing running races, charitable fundraising and community cultural activities on or around Thanksgiving Day.  This mark is merely descriptive of the services because it immediately tells consumers that the services involve a “turkey trot.

TURKEY TROT is the common, generic name given to running races and surrounding cultural and sporting activities performed on Thanksgiving Day across the country. The examining attorney has attached ten sample websites found using the GOOGLE search engine that show widespread use of this term by others to name their similar races and fundraising activities.  The evidence shows that others have been using TURKEY TROT to name such activities far longer than the applicant’s claimed dates of first use.  In  the interest of brevity, the examining attorney has attached only ten such sample uses of TURKEY TROT.  Given this widespread use, consumers who encounter the applicant’s proposed mark would perceive the wording TURKEY TROT as the name of the activity, and not as a source identifier for the applicant.

Therefore, the examining attorney refuses registration on the Principal Register on the basis that the mark is merely descriptive of and appears to be generic for the services.

There are a few other applications and registrations that include the phrase “Turkey Trot” and the Office appears to generally suggest a disclaimer of the phrase “Turkey Trot” when it is part of an applied-for mark.

All this talk of running is working up an appetite, however.  Could someone please pass the cheddar and jalapeno stuffing?

Happy Thanksgiving!

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