February 11, 2011
GM Cites Wikipedia in Admin Law Case, Wins Anyway
Picked this one up from the Legal Satyricon. There was a case before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board where General Motors LLC opposed the registration of the mark CORVOLTTE which describes an electric vehicle. The issue, naturally, was confusion between GMs own CORVETTE mark. One would think that this would be a no-brainer for the TTAB. It was, sort of, but GM didn't make it as easy as it could for the Board and itself.
GM owns the trademark to the word CORVETTE in relation to automobiles, and it was granted in 1952 in Number 1495033 and noted by the Board. So what evidence did it plead in opposition? Several pleaded registrations issued by the PTO showing the current status of and current title to those registrations, but not Registration No. 1495033; an excerpt from Corvette Illustrated Encyclopedia; an excerpt from Corvette America's Sports Car; and the Wikipedia entry for Corvette. The Board was not amused:
There is no evidence of sales, advertising or the extent of the mark’s renown. To the extent that opposer has relied on the Wikipedia evidence to establish the fame of the CORVETTE mark, an Internet entry is admissible for the limited purpose of demonstrating what has been printed, not for the truth of what has been printed. Safer Inc. v. OMS Investments Inc., 94 USPQ2d 1031, 1040 (TTAB 2010). Suffice it to say, opposer’s evidence falls far short of establishing the fame or renown of its CORVETTE mark.
The Board then went on to deny the registration for CORVOLTTE by analyzing how similar the words are for the applicable class of items. So let me get this straight. I'm guessing that GM has lawyers they pay, what, $500 an hour? Something like that, anyway. And the best they can come up with is Wikipedia when they defend a trademark as famous as Corvette? I've known paralegals who could do better than that, and at the far less expensive $100 an hour rate. The lawyers at the GM Renaissance Center should reconsider their research techniques. [MG]