Princeton Vanguard, LLC v. Frito-Lay of N. Am., Inc., No. 14-1517 (Fed. Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
PV applied to register PRETZEL CRISPS in standard character format for “pretzels” on an intent-to-use basis under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051. The trademark examiner refused registration on the Principal Register, finding the proposed mark merely descriptive. PV: amended its identification of goods to “pretzel crackers;” disclaimed the exclusive right to use “pretzel” apart from the mark as a whole; and obtained registration on the Supplemental Register. Years later, PV again sought to register PRETZEL CRISPS on the Principal Register, identifying October, 2004 as its first use of the mark in commerce, disclaiming the exclusive right to use the term “pretzel” apart from the mark as shown, and claiming acquired distinctiveness in the mark as a whole. Frito-Lay filed opposition, arguing that the term PRETZEL CRISPS is generic for pretzel crackers and not registrable and that PRETZEL CRISPS is highly descriptive of a type of cracker product and has not acquired distinctiveness. Frito-Lay also moved to cancel the supplemental registration. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board granted the petition for cancellation, finding that “pretzel crisps” was a compound term, not a phrase, and was generic. The Federal Circuit vacated: the Board overlooked or disregarded a genericness survey as to which it apparently found no flaw and applied the incorrect legal standard in assessing whether the term was generic.